Lately, purchase my wife and I have been trying to kick our habit of carbonated beverages with sugar and artificial sweeteners. To fill the void, illness we’ve started sampling various types of seltzer water, sildenafil club soda, sparkling water, and carbonated mineral water. Our favorite, although a bit expensive for our tight dental student budget is Perrier Lemon carbonated mineral water.
Since I’ve recently written a lot about how the acids that we put in our mouths can erode the enamel on our teeth, I decided to do some research and find out if sparkling water can erode teeth. Luckily somebody else has already done the research!
Although sparkling water contains nothing more than carbonated water (perhaps with a few minerals) and natural flavors, I didn’t expect it to be as acidic as soda pop, which also can contain phosphoric acid. Unfortunately, sparkling water is still very acidic due to the carbonation which can combine with the water to form carbonic acid.
Yes, Sparkling Water Can Harm Your Teeth
A group of researchers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom wanted to find out if sparkling water can cause enamel erosion.
First, they measured the pH of the sparkling water and found that it has a pH of right around 3. To compare this with other drinks, you can view this article about the different drinks that erode our teeth.
They took some extracted teeth and placed them in glasses filled with different types of flavored carbonated waters. They found that the sparkling water does eat away tooth enamel.
In fact, they found that flavored sparkling water has as much or more of an erosive effect on teeth than orange juice, which is known to be very erosive to the teeth.
Here is what the researchers concluded, straight from their paper written in the King’s English:
Flavoured sparkling waters should be considered as potentially erosive, and preventive advice on their consumption should recognize them as potentially acidic drinks rather than water with flavouring.
In other words, sparkling water can erode your tooth enamel. It’s probably not something you need to worry about though, unless you drink carbonated water several times per day. Our saliva can repair the enamel through a process called re-mineralization as long as your teeth aren’t being bathed in the acid constantly.
Have you heard of alkaline water? If not, look you might soon hear about it from a multi-level-marketer near you. Earlier this week, view I talked with an alkaline water marketer for five or ten minutes about it. He talked about all of the benefits of alkaline water and even called it “nature’s water” or something similar to that.
I wasn’t familiar with alkaline water, so I decided to read up on it. As I browsed several websites, I noticed a trend. Nearly all of the supporters of alkaline water are selling something, and those who oppose it seem to agree that its supporters are only supporting it to make money.
As I read over some of the claims, some of them were outrageous, and others were completely false. If I didn’t have a strong background in the life sciences, I might have been fooled. One claim in particular caught my eye. The author of a website claims that alkaline water can improve your oral health. Here’s a couple of ways that alkaline water might improve your oral health, and my thoughts about them.
Can Alkaline Water Help Re-mineralize Your Teeth?
If you’ve read my article about the nine types of drinks that can dissolve your teeth, you probably know that acids are harmful to your teeth. Alkaline water is basic (the opposite of an acid), so it might make sense that alkaline water would help your teeth. After all, if acidic drinks dissolve your teeth, wouldn’t it make sense that alkaline drinks would re-build your teeth? Actually, no. When acidic drinks dissolve your teeth, they take away the minerals that make up the enamel. Thankfully, your body has a built-in mechanism to replace these minerals via your saliva. Alkaline water can’t re-mineralize your teeth by replacing tooth structure.
Can Alkaline Water Neutralize Acids That Break Down Teeth?
Whenever you eat anything containing sugar or starch, it can be eaten by the bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria then excrete acid right onto your teeth. This acid can slowly eat away at your teeth. If you don’t remove the bacteria daily through brushing and flossing, then the acid that they excrete will eventually cause a cavity in your tooth. For more about how plaque destroys your teeth, read What Every Human Needs To Know About Plaque. In theory, alkaline water could neutralize the acid that the plaque produce and inhibit a cavity from forming. However, you would have to swish it around in your mouth a lot to ensure that it was able to contact the acid under the sticky layer of plaque. Most people when drinking alkaline water probably don’t bother to swish it around in their mouths, they simply swallow it down to their acidic stomachs. Although alkaline water could be used to neutralize acid, it is probably more simple to deprive the acid-producing bacteria of their food source by rinsing your mouth out with water to get rid of the sugar or eating some fresh vegetables to clean your teeth. If you really want to neutralize the acid, try mixing a teaspoon of baking soda into some warm water and swishing it around in your mouth. This will produce some “alkaline water” at a fraction of the cost.
Alkaline water can’t re-build your teeth’s enamel or heal a cavity. It could theoretically neutralize the acid in your mouth after eating something sugary, but it’s probably not terribly effective. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any scientific peer-reviewed articles on this specific subject. Finally, a word to the wise: It’s probably best to get your health information from someone who isn’t trying to sell you something. If someone claims that their product can solve hundreds of health problems, it’s probably too good to be true. If you want to see if a claim is backed up by real science, you can try performing a search of scientific papers at PubMed or Google Scholar free of charge. Do you have any questions or comments on alkaline water and oral health? If so, leave them below in the comments section!