Could Your Love for Sugar-Free Bubbly Water Be Harming Your Teeth?By Dr Anthony Hua
The warmer months means a welcome return to the beach, barbeques and summery drinks by the pool. Along with trying to lose a few of those unwanted winter kilos, we often reach for lighter foods and lighter drinks – namely sugar-free bubbly drinks as an option. But have you wondered what those bubbles are doing to your teeth?
Australia’s health and fitness industry are booming, and this altered healthy mindset is being reflected in our drinking habits. Sparkling waters are a big hit with trendy millennials and the mum crowd because of their low-fat, low-sodium, low-carb and low-sugar benefits. We want sparkling mineral water on tap, literally. Sales of SodaStreams, the kitchen benchtop devices that convert regular tap water into carbonated water, have doubled in Australia in the last two years and retail sales of the bubbly water is flourishing.
What’s the difference between Club, Seltzer, Sparkling and Tonic water?
Not only do sparkling waters offer a healthy alternative to other sugary and alcoholic drinks, but they also provide a somewhat guilt-free and gluten-free option. While these drinks can be refreshing and a healthy alternative to sugary soft drinks, the extra carbonation in sparkling waters can be damaging your teeth without you knowing it.
The fizzy water in most bubbly drinks contains carbonic acid, which gives it the bubbles and the acidity can gradually wear down your tooth enamel.
Club soda is water that has been carbonated by injecting carbon dioxide gas, or CO2. It can also have minerals like potassium sulfate, sodium chloride, disodium phosphate, and sodium bicarbonate added to it.
Seltzer is the newest bubbly water to hit Australia. While the concept may be new in Australia, recent reports of sales in the United States have risen by a whopping 193 per cent since last year. Americans love the new beverage so much they have spent over $389 million a year on it, which was an increase of 210 per cent from 2018 and its predicted sales will mimic this trend here in Australia. Like club soda, seltzer is water that has been carbonated but generally does not contain added minerals – giving it a more natural taste. Given their similarities, seltzer can be used as an alternative for club soda as a cocktail mixer.
Unlike club soda or seltzer, sparkling mineral water is naturally carbonated. The bubbles come from a natural spring or well with naturally occurring carbonation. Natural spring water contains a variety of minerals, such as sodium, calcium, and magnesium. However, the amounts vary based on the source from which the spring water was bottled. Some producers further carbonate their products by adding carbon dioxide, making them even more bubbly.
Tonic water has the most unique taste of all these beverages. Like club soda, it’s carbonated water that contains minerals. However, tonic water also contains quinine, which gives tonic water a bitter taste. This compound is derived from the bark of cinchona trees. Tonic water is also carbonated, but it is commonly sweetened with fructose corn syrup or sugar, which means it contains more calories.
How bad is carbonated water for teeth?
The potential damage is that the carbonic acid that forms the bubbles may erode your teeth over time, particularly if you are consuming large amounts. The acidity breaks down the enamel, which is the outer layer of your teeth and protects it from tooth decay and tooth sensitivity. The lower a drink is in pH levels, the more chance it has to start breaking down the enamel in your teeth. Plain tap water has a pH level of between 6-8, which is ideal for the mouth. Carbonated water has a pH level of 5, which is still relatively safe as the critical pH below which enamel begins to erode is 4.5. But when flavours are added and alcohol mixes, the pH level will drop below 4.5, which is when the damage may start occurring to teeth.
Most dentists will say that the best beverage to drink for your oral health is fluoridated water. While sparkling water seems to present minimal risk, as long as it is unflavoured, it’s still a good idea to watch how many carbonated drinks you consume in your regular daily and weekly routine.
To keep your teeth as healthy as possible, the Australian Dental Association recommends swapping sugary soft drinks for sparkling water alternatives but not replacing regular, fluoridated water with sparkling water.
Article by Dr Anthony Hua – Principal Dentist
Dr Anthony Hua is the Founder & Principal Dentist at Burleigh Dental Studio. His passion, expertise and dedication to the field of dentistry have been recognised by his achievement of Fellowship status with the Australian Society of Implant Dentistry (ASID) and the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI).
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