We know that sodas, sports drinks, and juices are high in sugars and acids that can discolor and damage teeth, but many people wonder about more flavorful alternatives than water.

Two options are seltzer and sparkling water, which provide the pleasing fizziness of carbonated soft drinks and can be lightly flavored to limit sugar. Research published earlier this year examined the effects of soda, seltzer and sparkling water on the teeth, and The New York Times’s “Ask Well” column recently tackled whether sparkling waters and seltzers have any dental drawbacks.

Missing Ingredients Good for Teeth

Seltzer is simply water that has been made effervescent with pressurized carbon dioxide. The term sparkling water applies to carbonated water such as club soda, which may have mineral-like additives, or sparkling mineral water, which contains naturally recurring minerals.

Seltzer and sparkling water contain less sugar

Plain seltzer and sparkling water lack sugar and added colors, and they are significantly less acidic than other soft drinks. As the “Ask Well” column notes, it’s important to check the label for seltzers and sparkling waters; some are artificially flavored and contain added sweeteners, salt, and other ingredients.

Numerous studies have supported that soft drinks contribute to premature tooth decay, but research published in 2006 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a particular link between colas and low bone-mineral density. This connection was not seen in those who drank seltzer, sparkling water, and other carbonated beverages.

The Acid Pest

Nearly all soft drinks—seltzer and sparkling water included—contain acids. The most common are carbonic acid, citric acid, and phosphoric acid, and they may appear individually or together.

As seltzer and sparkling water derive their fizz from carbon dioxide, they contain carbonic acid. But the level of acidity is low compared with cola and other soft drinks. According to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Dental Association, beverages with a pH below 4.0 “are potentially damaging to the dentition,” while beverages with a higher pH carry a minimum risk for enamel damage.

That research examined a number of commercially available beverages, including sparkling waters and a variety of sodas, soft drinks, fruit juices and fruit drinks. The study found that plain sparkling waters have a pH of about 5. For comparison, Coca-Cola has a pH of 2.4, most Gatorade beverages are around 3, and most fruit juices and fruit drinks hover in the 2s and 3s.

Flavor without Damaging Teeth

You can still enjoy refreshing, carbonated beverages without all the harmful sugar and acids. There are some flavored brands available that are low in sugar and limit additional acids, such as citric acid. Home carbonation devices are also available that infuse tap water with bubbles and allow you to control sugar and flavoring.

You can also add a slice or two of fresh citrus, or some crushed berries, to seltzer or sparkling water. You can further dress up your drink with vegetables like cucumbers and herbs like mint. You can even add carbonated water to a splash of fruit juice to get some of the flavor and sweetness without overloading on sugar. Other beverage options that allow you to control sugar and acidity are iced tea and lemonade.

If your teeth are discolored from the long-term consumption of soft drinks, or other beverages such as coffee or wine, teeth whitening can restore a vibrant smile. If you suffer from related dental health problems, such as tooth decay or missing teeth, there are restorative and cosmetic dentistry treatments available.

Rockland County cosmetic dentist Dr. Mark Dunayer is dedicated to helping patients achieve and maintain beautiful, healthy smiles. If you’re seeking an experienced, compassionate dentist in the West Nyack, NY, area, please call B & D Dental Excellence today at (845) 627-7645.