Have you heard of “Mountain Dew Mouth”? It’s what happens to teeth when they are exposed to too much soda.
The term comes from rural Appalachia, an impoverished community in the United States, where Mountain Dew long been the most popular soda and tooth decay is shockingly common.
But this kind of dental problem isn’t unique to Appalachia, and Mountain Dew isn’t the only beverage that can help cause tooth decay.
In fact, all sugary or acidic drinks can be culprits in tooth decay.
This is why recently, many dental-health-conscious Australians have been moving towards sparkling water as their drink of choice.
Sparkling water seems like an excellent choice – it contains healthy, natural water and a bit of fizzy carbonation to make things a bit more exciting.
But is sparkling water as safe as it seems, or does it come with hidden dangers? Comfort Dental Center Buderim takes a look!
Why Chemistry Matters
When any carbonated drink is manufactured, carbon dioxide (CO2) is pumped into the drink at high pressure. The pressure makes the CO2 dissolve into the rink, creating carbonic acid—H2CO3—which gives the drink its distinctive fizzy tang.
Acids are identified by a low pH. And drinks with a low pH level can cause dental problems that start when they erode enamel, the hard, outer layer of your teeth. Enamel, unfortunately, does not grow back.
When enamel erodes, the sensitive dentin beneath is exposed. This can lead to teeth discoloration, tooth sensitivity, and cavities.
In terms of pH, sparkling water is not the worst drink, but it is below that of the natural pH of the mouth (about 7.4):
- Natural water has a pH level of 7
- Bottled water — even some of the non-fizzy variety — has a pH level of 5-7
- The pH level of flavoured sparkling water ranges from 3-5
- Sodas can be as low as 2 – 2.5
Checking Out The Science
So, what does science say? Let’s take a look.
A Birmingham research team studied mineral water by pouring them over-extracted teeth to see what the effects were. They discovered that sparkling waters had a pH of about 5 (not as acidic as cola drinks which can be as low as 2), compared with natural water that came in at 7 (the mouth naturally stays at about 7.4).
These numbers are below the expected threshold for erosion. Sparkling waters contain a weak acid, as the researchers had anticipated. But as to erosive effect? It was 100-times less than that of some other kinds of fizzy drinks. This suggests that, even if sparkling water does have the possibility of an erosive effect on enamel, it is much safer for your teeth than sodas and fruit juices.
Another study in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation revealed that plain mineral water and most flavourless sparkling water do very little damage. Sparkling water may have a theoretical risk of tooth erosion, but they would need to be taken in over a very extended period to have any significant effect. Tooth erosion can occur under controlled lab conditions, but in the real world, it’s unlikely you’d drink enough to do any meaningful harm to your teeth.
However, if you consume sparkling water that contains added ingredients, the risk rises substantially. A 2009 case report shows that acids and sugars in these drinks have carcinogenic and acidogenic potential that can cause tooth erosion.
So, while sparkling water may represent a theoretical threat to tooth enamel, if you drink them unflavoured you are probably safe and they are certainly better than more acidic and sugary alternatives.
Safe Drinking For Carbonated Beverages
The following advice goes for sparkling water and all carbonated or sugary drinks.
- Drink with a meal. Save sparkling water for mealtimes. Chewing increases the production of saliva, helping to neutralise the effect of acid on tooth enamel.
- Drinking sparkling water with a straw. Consuming carbonated beverages through a straw minimises contact between carbonic acid and enamel.
- Drink it plain. Flavoured sparkling water often has destructive added sugars and adding a wedge of fresh lemon or lime increases acidity, which can increase the potential for erosion.
- Follow it with water. Drinking regular water after drinking sparkling water rinses the teeth.
- Wait 30-40 minutes before brushing. Right after drinking a carbonated drink, the tooth surface is slightly weakened. So wait to brush.
Comfort Dental Centre Buderim Cares
Comfort Dental Centre Buderim provides expert care for healthy, beautiful smiles. When you leave our office not only will you be happy with the treatment you received, but also how well you were treated.
We serve patients from Buderim and surrounding areas with top-notch dentistry. Our dental practice in Buderim provides the highest quality of dental care, in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere, with a commitment to excellent customer service.
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