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The skinny on sparkling water: Does it erode teeth?

March 17, 2016
Sparkling waters, popularly received as a healthy alternative beverage, have their advantages. But many people do not know certain types can cause dental erosion. Read more here.
Dental friend or foe?

Sparkling waters, popularly received as a healthy alternative beverage, have their advantages. But many people do not know certain types can cause dental erosion. Read more below.

We know that certain foods and beverages are harmful to our bodies and our mouths. Sugary drinks have been linked to tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, depression and more; even diet drinks have been shown to have harmful effects. This article will review the shocking truth about another popular, seemingly harmless beverage, sparkling water.

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Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is associated with change of visceral adipose tissue and has been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. (1) Beverages sweetened with either sucrose or high fructose corn syrup are the largest contributor of added sugar intake in the United States. (2) Additionally, regular consumption of sugary drinks was linked to type 2 diabetes independent of obesity, and fruit juices and no-calorie artificially sweetened drinks did not seem to be any healthier. (3) This meta-analysis found that sweetened beverage consumption, whether the sweetener was artificial or natural, seem to increase the risk of diabetes.

Even diet drinks have disadvantages to them. A University of Iowa study found that drinking two or more diet drinks a day may increase the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, in otherwise healthy postmenopausal women. (4) Researchers established that, compared to women who never or only rarely consume diet drinks, those who consume two or more a day are 30% more likely to have a cardiovascular event and 50% more likely to die from related disease. (4)

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Healthy drinks?
So where does that leave us, and what is a healthy drink? Water is certainly a good choice. But to add a bit of variety, what about sparkling water? La Croix, Pellegrino, and Perrier are popular brand-name choices in the United States, with club soda being a generic alternative. In Europe and other parts of the world, you have a choice of with or without “gas” or “fizz.” Sparkling water contains carbonic acid, which gives the beverage the bubbles. That acidity can gradually weaken and destroy tooth enamel. (5) There is some good news. Carbonic acid is comparatively a weak acid. Bottled flat water has a neutral pH of about 7, and that of Perrier is about 5.5. However, if the sparkling water is flavored, they may contain citric or other acids, which makes them more acidic and harmful. (6) In a 2007 study, human teeth placed in flavored sparkling waters for 30 minutes found that the flavored waters were approximately as destructive as orange juice. According to the researchers, it is incorrect to label flavored sparkling waters as a healthy dental alternative to other acidic drinks. (6) It might be prudent to consume acidic drinks at meal times, and drink plain water between meals.

In spite of the limitations, drinking sparkling water is still likely far less damaging to teeth than regular or diet soda. (7) The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 100 calories per day of added sugars, such as those found in sweetened beverages, for most women, and 150 calories per day for most men. Drinking one 12-ounce soft drink a day would exceed that amount. (1) Stick with water, plain or sparkling!

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in RDH eVillage Focus. Our editorial team would be happy to deliver content like this to your inbox twice a month. Just let us know by subscribing here.

1. Ma J, McKeown NM, Hwang S, Hoffman U, Jacques PF, Fox CS. Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption is Associated with Change of Visceral Adipose Tissue Over 6 Years of Follow-Up. Circulation. 2016;133(4):370-377. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.018704.
2. Welsh JA, Sharma AJ, Grellinger L, Vos MB. Consumption of added sugars is decreasing in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;94(3):726-734.
3. Imamura F, O’Connor L, Ye Z, et al. Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes: systematic review, meta-analysis, and estimation of population attributable fraction. BMJ. 2015 Jul 21;351:h3576. doi: 10.1136/bmj.h3576.
4. Diet drinks. UI Health Care Marketing and Communications.
5. Hammond C. Is sparkling water really bad for you? BCC website. Published September 14, 2015. Accessed March 17, 2016.
6. Brown CJ, Smith G, Shaw L, Parry J, Smith AJ. The erosive potential of flavored sparkling water drinks. Int J Paediat Dent. 2007;17(2):86-91.
7. Parry J, Shaw L, Arnaud MJ, Smith AJ. Investigation of mineral waters and soft drinks in relation to dental erosion. J Oral Rehabil. 2001;28(8)766-772.

Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS, is editorial director of RDH eVillage Focus.