The Truth About Seltzer

February 2, 2016

There are things people know in their hearts to be true, that they nonetheless hope are not true. This is a story about one such thing.

Last week, I tossed this question out to Twitter:

Dentists: Please settle this one for me — is non-sugary, sparkling water (like La Croix) bad for your tooth enamel? Why or why not?

Immediately, the pings from fellow journalists (and media-adjacent folk) came pouring in, all saying something along the lines of, “Can you actually let me know what you find out? I’m addicted to that stuff.”

They mean “addicted” in the jokey, dark-chocolate-and-Netflix-streaming way, but the habit can border on pathological. For me, rock bottom was a recent, obscenely long workday during which an entire 12-pack of coconut La Croix somehow made it down my throat, can by shining can.

There’s something about fizzy water that helps the desk-bound get through the day. Whether it’s the fruity pep of Perrier, the zesty bite of Pellegrino, or the punishing bitterness of the leftover club soda you used to make one too many cocktails the night before, carbonated waters provide something their still brethren just can’t. The bubbles distract the mouth as the mind strains to absorb endless screens of information. With effervescence entertaining your tongue, you don’t notice the arugula that’s germinating between your R and T keys. That might be why sales of sparkling waters have doubled over the past five years.

There is, of course, a cost to every fun thing.

Even when it’s unflavored, fizzy water contains an acid—carbonic acid—that gives it its bubbles. That acidity can gradually wear away tooth enamel.

The good news is, it’s a relatively weak acid. Unless they’re flavored with citric or other acids, seltzers tend to have more neutral pH values than soft drinks like Coke. While bottled flat water has a pH of about 7—or totally neutral—that of Perrier is about 5.5.

The flavorings, though, can bring the pH down, making the beverages even harsher on tooth enamel. One 2007 study in which researchers exposed human teeth to flavored sparkling waters for 30 minutes found the waters to be roughly as corrosive as orange juice. “It would be inappropriate to consider these flavored sparkling waters as a healthy dental alternative to other acidic drinks,” that study concluded.

Yikes. When I read that, I decided to go cold-turkey. But first, I ran to my SodaStream, which gently farted out one last bottle of diet gingerale, for a rainy day.

Read More: Here

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