Is seltzer the new diet soda? And is it bad for teeth?
Friday, March 23, 2018
Dentists know to warn their patients about the perils of too much sugar in the form of sodas, juices and other sugary drinks. But is it time to steer them away from seltzer water, too?
The wildly popular La Croix has made its way into the hearts and hands of nutrition-minded people across the nation. Unflavored, tangerine, coconut, grapefruit, kiwi, lime — the bubbly water in a can contains no sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no sodium and can be guzzled guilt-free.
Or can it? (Record scratch.)
Dental professor Dr. Mark Wolff, chair of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at New York University's College of Dentistry, has this to say: "Be strategic with your La Croix obsession."
Buzzkill, Dr. Wolff.
Manufacturers add pressurized carbon dioxide to produce the carbonation, which is basically the process that makes those beloved seltzers bubbly and fizzy. This instantly makes the drink acidic, and that acid can cause the tooth's enamel to erode over time.
But in fairness to our much-loved La Croix, it's not just seltzers that do this. Acid in any drink can cause tooth enamel erosion, whether it comes from seltzer, flavored sparkling water, diet or regular soda. Fruit juices, wine and coffee are all acidic, too, Wolff said.
The truth is, seltzer and flavored sparkling waters are still better choices than soda and fruit juice. They are less acidic than other carbonated beverages and don't contain added sugar.
While acid does soften tooth enamel, the occasional consumption of a bubbly beverage is no big deal, Wolff told The Huffington Post. Within about 30 minutes after drinking, the mouth begins to heal itself as saliva hardens enamel back up.
Not to worry. You (and your patients) don't have to give up your (their) favorite carbonated waters. Just suggest these tips for reducing the risk of enamel erosion due to the acidic nature of the beverage:
- drink it in 5-10 minute bursts rather than sipping over a long period of time
- drink it through a straw to bypass the teeth
- do not brush your teeth immediately after consuming an acidic drink as it can wear down already softened tooth enamel
OK, great. I can keep my La Croix. But it is just as good as drinking water? No.
"It's very clear that water has the distinct advantage that it rinses the mouth, does not add calories, does not add acid to the system and keeps us hydrated," Wolff said.
And if plain water leaves you bored, try infusing fruit or herbs such as strawberry, lime, cucumber or mint.
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