It's no secret that drinking soda, both the sugar-free and the regular, is very unhealthy for you. But what about the plain sparkling drinks, such as tonic water, sparkling water, soda water, and seltzer water? Are the claims true that carbonation itself is harmful, causing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), tooth decay, weight gain, and bone calcium loss—all this without the flavoring, sugar, and added calories that soda contains?
Is Sparkling Water Bad for Your Teeth?
Sparkling, or carbonated, water is plain water that has had pressurized carbon dioxide gas added to it. So in and of itself, sparkling water does no real harm to your teeth. It is more corrosive than plain water, but if you consume it in moderation, it is not acidic enough to erode your teeth. It is when the sugar, flavoring, and other ingredients are added that the risk of tooth damage increases. In a 2009 case study, it was reported that the sugars and acids in soda have carcinogenic and acidogenic potential, which will cause erosion of tooth enamel. It is the sugar and other harmful ingredients in soda that does the damage to your teeth.
More Myths About Sparkling Water Debunked
Myth 1: Does Sparkling Water Cause Harm to Bones?
The short answer is no. In 2006, a study was done on 2,500 people to see what effect on bone density that drinking colas and other carbonated drinks had. The researchers found that it was the consumption of cola beverages that produced low bone mineral density in the women participants. Other fizzy drinks did not seem to have that same effect. The difference is that cola drinks have phosphorus added, which increases calcium loss through the kidneys, also increasing the risk of kidney stones.
Myth 2: Does Drinking Sparkling Water Lead to IBS?
Sparkling water doesn't cause IBS, but it can cause gas and bloating, which may cause IBS flare-ups. If you have a sensitive stomach, or any gastrointestinal issues that cause discomfort after drinking sparkling water (flavored or plain), you should probably discontinue drinking them.
Myth 3: Can Sparkling Water Make You Fat?
It depends on the additives. Plain sparkling water won't cause weight gain, but check the label of what you're drinking. Plain water with pressurized carbon dioxide added has no calories. But seltzers and some other sparkling water drinks have added natural and artificial acids, sodium, sweeteners, and flavorings. These may contain calories, which will lead to weight gain and tooth decay.
Precautions for Drinking Sparkling Water
After learning the answer to "is sparkling water bad for your teeth", you still need to take precautions before drinking sparkling water. You may safely enjoy drinking sparkling water regularly if you will remember these few basic tips.
- If you have IBS, don't drink any carbonated beverage, flavored or unflavored. The carbonation can increase the symptoms and cause severe bloating.
- Read the label! If the sparkling water contains added sugar, artificial sweeteners, or flavors, proceed with caution. Even if the nutrition label says zero calories, there can still be small amounts of hidden ingredients.
- Watch for citric acid listed as an ingredient, which is added for flavor. Citrus flavored drinks are the most harmful to your teeth. If you really like this flavor, at least limit your consumption of these types of sparkling water to an occasional treat.
- If you choose to drink the more acidic sparkling water, drink it with your meals. The food in your mouth will decrease the effect the acid has on your teeth.
- Plain water is the best drink for the human body. Plain sparkling water is an acceptable alternative to sugary drinks, sodas, and even juice drinks. But don't make it the only thing you ever drink.
Worst Foods and Drinks for Your Teeth
Now that you know the answer to "is sparkling water bad for your teeth", you may wonder what else can also do harm to your teeth.
1. Chewy Candy
The bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar and turn it into acid. In turn, the “bad” bacteria thrive in the acidic environment. The more sugar you consume, the more acid is produced, which leaches minerals from your teeth and contributes to cavities and gum disease. Chewy candy, such as taffy, sticks to your teeth longer and feeds the bacteria.
2. Sports Drinks
This is one place where you need to exercise your label-reading skills. Many sports drinks list sugar as the number one ingredient. Sports drinks also contain a high level of acids, which destroys the tooth enamel. Tooth enamel can't be replaced, so the destruction is permanent.
3. Coffee and Tea
Many people consider coffee as one of the essential food groups and wouldn't think of starting their day without it. Some people are just as addicted to tea. But for many reasons, these beverages are very harmful to your overall health in addition to affecting your pearly whites. The main obvious damage they do to teeth is to stain them. If you must drink coffee or tea, try using a straw to direct the liquid past your teeth so it doesn't touch them. Or drink a glass of water after each cup of coffee or tea to wash away the residue. Talk to your dentist about tooth whitening products, or try one of the OTC products available. And, of course, if you put sugar in your tea or coffee, well, you know the rest!