An AtlanticÂ story has been generating buzz lately for warning thatÂ carbonatedÂ waterÂ can beÂ bad for your teeth.Â We knew that soda can rot your teeth. But seltzer?! It's the perfect soda alternativeâsame pleasant fizz sans all theÂ sugar and sweeteners, and just as hydrating as plain old H2O.
To find out more, we called dentistÂ Michael Krochak, DMD, ofÂ NYC Smile Spa.Â TheÂ problem with seltzer, he explained, has to do with itsÂ pH. Flat water has a neutralÂ pH of 7. ButÂ 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 flavorÂ and the problem gets worse: The citric acid in flavored waterÂ pushes the pH to somewhere betweenÂ 3.5 and 2.5, he says.
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That's not a good thing because an acidicÂ environment in your mouth will lead to the erosion of tooth enamel. And when that enamelâwhich protects your teeth from everyday irritantsâstarts to wear down, it can leave your pearly whitesÂ 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'tÂ drink it every day
Dr. Krochak doesn't worryÂ 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 isÂ San Pellegrino ($31 for a 24 pack, amazon.com) because it's carbonated naturally at a lower pressure, which means its pH (betweenÂ 6.5 andÂ 7) is closer to flat water. Pricier, yes. But better for your teeth? Definitely. Perrier ($29 for a 24 pack, amazon.com)Â is another option, with a pH around 5.5.
After you drink, chew xylitol gum
Xylitol is a plant-derived sweetenerÂ that actually preventsÂ the natural formation of acids in your mouth.Â After you drink an acidic beverage like seltzer (or coffeeÂ or juice),Â Dr. Krochak suggests rinsing your mouth out with water, and then popping in a piece of xyligtol gum for two minutes. His pick:Â CariFree Xylitol GumÂ ($25 for 20 packs;Â amazon.com).