An Atlantic story has been generating buzz lately for warning that carbonated water can be bad for your teeth. We knew that soda can rot your teeth. But seltzer?! It's the perfect soda alternative–same pleasant fizz sans all the sugar and sweeteners, and just as hydrating as plain old H2O.
To find out more, we called dentist Michael Krochak, DMD, of NYC Smile Spa. The problem with seltzer, he explained, has to do with its pH. Flat water has a neutral pH of 7. But when you carbonate water to make seltzer, carbonic acid forms, bringing the pH down to an acidic 4 or 3, says Dr. Krochak. Add fruit flavor and the problem gets worse: The citric acid in flavored water pushes the pH to somewhere between 3.5 and 2.5, he says.
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That's not a good thing because an acidic environment in your mouth will lead to the erosion of tooth enamel. And when that enamel–which protects your teeth from everyday irritants–starts to wear down, it can leave your pearly whites vulnerable to sensitivity, chips, cavities, and decay.
But lucky for those of who love the stuff, there's no need to go cold turkey. There are a few things you can do to protect your enamel without giving up bubbly water, says Dr. Krochak.
Don'tdrink it every day
Dr. Krochak doesn't worry about his patients who consume seltzer a few times a week. But problems start when it becomes a regular habit. "If it's more than three times per week, you're going to start seeing some damage," he says.
Switch to mineral waters
They are the safest type of seltzer, Dr. Krochak explains. His first choice is San Pellegrino ($31 for a 24 pack, amazon.com) because it's carbonated naturally at a lower pressure, which means its pH (between 6.5 and 7) is closer to flat water. Pricier, yes. But better for your teeth? Definitely. Perrier ($29 for a 24 pack, amazon.com) is another option, with a pH around 5.5.
After you drink, chew xylitol gum
Xylitol is a plant-derived sweetener that actually prevents the natural formation of acids in your mouth. After you drink an acidic beverage like seltzer (or coffee or juice), Dr. Krochak suggests rinsing your mouth out with water, and then popping in a piece of xyligtol gum for two minutes. His pick: CariFree Xylitol Gum ($25 for 20 packs; amazon.com).