In an effort to choose healthier alternatives to soda, many people are drinking sugar-free sparkling water, with or without added flavoring.
A recent TikTok video that suggested using balsamic vinegar for flavor in an effort to create a “healthy Coke” has received over 6 million views. But recent research shows even these healthy alternatives can do harm. Basically, those bubbles come at a cost.
Dr. Edmond Hewlett is a dentist and consumer advisor for the American Dental Association.
“Carbonated beverages do have a mild acidity and drinking, and especially exposing our teeth to anything acidic for extended periods of time, can cause erosion of the enamel. The acid will actually start to dissolve the enamel away,” said Hewlett.
The study also found that flavored carbonated beverages were notably more acidic than unflavored and had more erosive potential because of the acidity of the flavor additives, whether they contained sugar or not.
Think of it this way. Our dental enamel is the protective white armor of our tooth surfaces. As the enamel thins, the actual appearance — not only the shape of the tooth but also the color of the tooth — will change because the darker yellowish layer underneath the enamel that we call the dentin now becomes more visible.
“There’s a cosmetic aspect, there’s a structural integrity aspect and eventually, these may, these results may cause the teeth to be exquisitely sensitive as well,” cautioned Hewlett.
Hewlett emphasized that the damage is a cumulative effect.
“The enamel doesn’t grow back, so even though you are removing an imperceptible amount with a single drink, it’s gone, and now you’re just compounding it, so a year later, two years, five years later, man there’s going to be, your teeth are not going to be, what they used to be,” said Hewlett.
Limiting how many carbonated beverages you drink can help.
“The occasional moderate consumption of that, drinking it relatively quickly, and even more effectively, drinking something like that with a meal is going to be minimally damaging at all, if you’re very careful,” said Hewlett.
But slowly sipping carbonated beverages routinely will do real damage.
“If you’re doing this all the time, throughout the day, if it becomes your preferred rehydration formula rather than plain water, this is a problem and you’re really putting your teeth at high risk,” said Hewlett.
Some other recommendations to decrease the risk are to drink using a straw to minimize how much of the drink gets on your teeth, to rinse your mouth with plain water afterward, and to eat dairy products to help reduce the acidity.
Personally, I have to admit, this research kind of bummed me out because I’m a huge fan of my SodaStream that carbonates tap water. Even unflavored, carbonated water just tastes more satisfying to me. But now I may have to change my habits too. I’m not really a straw person, but I will try to at least rinse my mouth out more often with plain water. I don’t flavor my water much, but based on this study, I’ll probably try to decrease any flavor additives as well.
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