For those who worship their SodaStreams, clutch tightly their sparkling waters, or gaze lovingly at a glass filled with carbonated bubbles, the following may be tough to swallow.
Seltzer is kinda bad for your teeth.
This unsettling news comes courtesy of The Atlantic's health writer Olga Khazan, who recently set out to once and for all determine if fizzy water is as innocent as it seems.
Dentists: Please settle this one for me -- is non-sugary, sparkling water (like La Croix) bad for your tooth enamel? Why or why not?— Olga Khazan (@olgakhazan) January 26, 2016
Khazan, like many of us, absolutely loves sparkling water. I myself regularly plow through cases of Wegmans' brand seltzer. Others prefer to mix it up at home with various appliances. In fact, soda water has become so popular that sales have more than doubled over the last five years to $1.5 billion.
In a world where some cities are considering placing health warnings on sugary sodas, seltzer has seemed like an oasis of bubbly goodness without the health drawbacks.
But alas, our teeth may be slowly paying the price for our carbonated love affair. Writes Khazan:
Even when it’s unflavored, fizzy water contains an acid — carbonic acid — that gives it its bubbles. That acidity can gradually wear away tooth enamel. The good news is, it’s a relatively weak acid. Unless they’re flavored with citric or other acids, seltzers tend to have more neutral pH values than soft drinks like Coke. While bottled flat water has a pH of about 7 — or totally neutral — that of Perrier is about 5.5.
The takeaway here is that while fizzy water is not as detrimental to our teeth or bodies as conventional soda (some colas have pH as acidic as 2.5), it will still have some impact when consumed over time.
In 2007, researchers from the University of Birmingham studying the corrosive effects of sparkling water on tooth enamel discovered the drinks were as acidic as orange juice. Their study, published in the International Journal of Pediatric Dentistry, concluded with the recommendation that flavored sparking water be considered "potentially erosive." A total fizz kill.
Before you rush to empty all your seltzer down the drain, the consensus appears to be, as with all other things in life, that moderation is key. The way you consume your bubbly will also make a difference. A 2004 Swedish study found that the longer you hold a carbonated beverage in your mouth, the greater potential for tooth decay. For those who use a straw, which pushes liquids to the back of the mouth, there is less risk.
“If you are at all concerned," one dentist helpfully shared with Khazan, "you can always dilute the carbonated water with regular water, or even just swish with regular water after.”
And now we know. Thanks a lot, science.