Are you one of those people who switched from drinking soft drinks to flavored sparkling water in an effort to make healthier choices? Not to burst your carbonated bubble, but you might want to think twice before cracking open that fourth LaCroix of the day.
Read more: 12 Ways to Make Water Taste (Much) Better
According to American Dental Association (ADA) spokesperson Edmond R. Hewlett, D.D.S., flavored sparking waters — such as LaCroix, Sparkling Ice and Hint — can erode tooth enamel. But the culprit isn’t the carbonation; rather, it’s the flavoring additives that can be acidic and can, therefore, potentially cause erosion.
Dr. Hewlett told the Food Network those harmless-seeming hints of orange, lime and lemon flavor in your sparking and still water lowers the pH (increases the acidity) to a level that can potentially erode tooth enamel with frequent consumption, making them hypersensitive to temperature and more prone to cavities.
In fact, a dental study was conducted more than decade ago in which researchers dropped human teeth in different flavored sparkling water products to determine their pH levels and how they damaged enamel, finding they ranged between 2.74 and 3.34 (LaCroix’s pH level reportedly hangs around a 3), having “erosive potential” similar to orange juice.
All this is slightly disconcerting if you deliberately switched from high-sugar, acidic juice to flavored sparkling water because you thought it was better for you.
While LaCroix in particular doesn’t disclose the pH level of its drinks on its website, it does point out that its products are “less acidic than traditional soft drinks, 100 percent juice and juice drinks and other typical beverages.” When asked about how flavored water compares to soft drinks, Dr. Hewlett says the erosion potential of these beverages is many, many times higher than that of flavored waters.”
So what’s a person with a major affinity for flavored water supposed to do?
“Flavored waters can indeed be enjoyed without risk to the health of our teeth, but mindfulness and moderation are key,” Dr. Hewlett told the Food Network. He recommends substituting plain water for flavored during the day, given that laboratory studies have shown that (unflavored) waters, be they still or sparkling, have very low erosive potential and do not pose a risk to tooth enamel.
Dr. Hewlett also suggests minimizing exposure of your teeth to any acidic beverage. “It is safer for the teeth to chug than to sip, sip, sip for a prolonged time. The habit of holding or swishing a gulp of sparkling beverage in the mouth before swallowing should be avoided.”
In other words — continue to enjoy those delicious flavored waters, but practice moderation and drink as much regular water as you can to balance it out. Laboratory studies have shown that (unflavored) waters, be they still or sparkling, have very low erosive potential and do not pose a risk to tooth enamel.
Your smile will thank you!
What Do YOU Think?
Do you drink flavored sparkling water? Are you surprised that it is bad for your teeth? Will this make you cut down on your favorite flavored drink?