Does carbonated mineral water cause cavities?
August 4, 2006 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Does carbonated mineral water cause cavities?

I drink a lot of soda throughout the day, but am concerned about cavities and want to make a change.

My question is whether the carbonation in soda contributes to cavities, or whether the culprit is just the sweeteners and other ingredients.

What I like about soda is less the flavor than the carbonation, so if carbonation is harmless I could switch to carbonated mineral water without much difficulty. Is this a good idea, or would it also cause cavities?

The two options I'm considering (because they're available inexpensively at Costco) are Perrier and San Pellegrino. They have a ph of 5.46 and 7.7 respectively. Mineral analyses are available here and here. Strictly from a dental health perspective, would San Pellegrino be a good choice?
posted by Ø to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am 99% sure that it is sugar that causes cavities.
posted by k8t at 2:55 PM on August 4, 2006

k8t, techincally it's bacteria feeding on sugars, and spitting out caustic byproducts, that cause cavities. I am most interested in seeing the eventual effects on dental hygeine, of the tooth-decay-vaccine.
posted by nomisxid at 3:07 PM on August 4, 2006

I'm not an expert or anything, but most bottled water here in Germany is carbonated, and I've never heard a dentist recommend that you switch to the non-carbonated kind to avoid cavities. I usually drink several litres (pints) a day and haven't got a single cavity.
posted by amf at 3:11 PM on August 4, 2006

Sugar is actually not the only thing in bottled drinks that might lead to cavities and tooth decay. Something to watch out for would be phosphorus—this can be found in many colas, for instance, even the diet versions. it's my understanding that phosphorus consumption in the excessive amounts found in soda leaches calcium out of one's teeth, leaving them more vulnerable to subsequent decay. Similarly, flavored bottled water (such as the flavored variant of Dasani and the many cheap, calorie-free carbonated flavored waters out there) often includes citric acid or other acids to add "tartness"—if one doesn't brush teeth after consuming these drinks (if drank just before sleep, for instance), the acid may begin to erode tooth enamel.

I don't know that these kinds of compounds would be found in normal bottled water, though—but you should be aware that many drinks that are "calorie-free," flavorless or only lightly flavored can lead to cavities. You are right to worry about this—you only get one set of teeth, after all.
posted by limeonaire at 3:21 PM on August 4, 2006

Perrier is heavily carbonated, switch to that. the most heavily carbonated water I've ever tasted is Alpi Cozie, I don't think you can find it in the US tho
posted by matteo at 3:26 PM on August 4, 2006

I was told by a dietician with a doctorate that carbonation in any form, even sparkling waters *can* be bad for both teeth and digestive tract because depending on mitigating factors, it can break down into carbonic acid (essentially 'acid rain')... depending on the neutrality / pH of the surrounding 'ingredients'.

Meaning it depends... on the surrounding acidity / basic nature of whatever else is in the mineral water / calorie-free soda you're drinking, and/or even your own personal body chemistry.

I dunno if there are studies behind this. What I do know is I quit drinking anything carbonated (beyond perhaps a beer every 2 or 3 weeks) quite a few years back, and it calmed my somewhat acidic stomach issues.

I have never had a cavity, but personally I think that's just good genetics; my dad still hasn't had to have any fillings done and he's 66.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:35 PM on August 4, 2006

FWIW, Gerolsteiner is easy to get and fairly cheap in 12-boxes at Trader Joe's, and they have a kickass cycling team too. Excellent chilled.
posted by kcm at 3:46 PM on August 4, 2006

The equilibrium of carbonic acid and CO2 dissolved in water heavily favors CO2. The acidity of the solution probably isn't high enough to do any real damage to your teeth. There might be some enyzmatic action or other biological process that causes decay in the presence of soda water, but other than that, your teeth should be fine.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:04 PM on August 4, 2006

I used to believe that the carbonation (carbonic acid) in soft drinks contributed to tooth decay, based on what I was told was the primary mechanism for cave formation. (Limestone and teeth are both largely calcium.) Used to be, geologists thought that caves were formed primarily by CO2-bearing ground water. In the last few years, a new theory has gained a lot of weight. It says that most caves are formed by much stronger acids (like sulfuric) percolating up from deep underground. Now I'm less sure about fizz eating teeth.

Also note that both Mythbusters and Snopes have addressed the tooth-dissolving-in-a-bottle-of-Coke "experiment" and dismissed it as fable. Both also assumed that phosphoric acid would be the active agent, and completely ignored the carbonation. In the Mythbusters episode, they left the Coke bottle uncapped after dropping the tooth in, which allowed the CO2 to completely escape as the drink went flat. To me, that invalidated the test, as regards Coke in general, though it did prove that the phosphoric acid wasn't enough to eat a tooth.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:38 PM on August 4, 2006

Keep in mind that bottled water will likely be non-flouridated water. In theory, if you drank nothing but bottled water and other non-water beverages, and you brushed your teeth with non-flouride toothpaste, you would totally miss out on any of the benefits of flouridation ... which could lead to an increased risk of cavities.
posted by frogan at 4:52 PM on August 4, 2006

It's both.

Sugar affects teeth indirectly - it is food for bacteria, their excretment is acidic, and it is that acid that causes the cavities.
Carbonated drinks have a low pH, so they attack teeth directly (the exact pH depends on the drink, coke is one of the lower ones, not counting energy drinks, which can get pretty low.
If your mouth has a higher pH, that protects against cavities. Chewing gum advertisers use this to sell gum.

Regardless of whether sugar or acidity are doing the most damage, the dentish-recommended solution to this is simple - drink your carbonated drinks through a straw, so that the bulk of it bypasses your teeth.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:54 PM on August 4, 2006

"*can* be bad for both teeth and digestive tract"

Your stomach acids are more acidic than coke, so you don't need to worry about the coke once it's in your digestive tract, unless you're borderline for stomach acid problems, or have an ulcer, etc.

On a related note, regurgitating stomach acids into your mouth is bad for your teeth. :)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:58 PM on August 4, 2006

"They have a ph of 5.46 and 7.7 respectively"

A quick look online for the pH of various soft drinks brings up so much conflicting noise that I'm tempted to do my own measurements, however, those values you give are both better than the conflicting range of values given for stuff like coke, and the 7.7 sounds good for the chewing gum reason - even a drink acidity that is not low enough to endanger your teeth directly still lowers your mouth alkalinity, enabling bacteria cavities as there is less ability to neutalize bacteria acid. That said, IANAD, nor do I know what ideal mouth pH is from a dental perspective.</small<

posted by -harlequin- at 5:14 PM on August 4, 2006

if one doesn't brush teeth after consuming these drinks (if drank just before sleep, for instance), the acid may begin to erode tooth enamel.

I was told by my dentist that brushing your teeth after
acidic or sugary drinks is the worst thing you can do ! Sounds counter-intuitive I know but she explained that acidic drinks weaken the surface of the enamel of the teeth - then when you come along with a toothbrush ,the weakened enamel is made even more weak. She said IF you are going to treat yourself to a soda brush BEFORE and not after.
posted by jacobean at 5:18 PM on August 4, 2006

Bear in mind that some bottled mineral waters are quite high in sodium.

Perhaps you could investigate a carbonation machine, you should be able to get them one pretty easily. They use those little metal bulbs to carbonate water. You could then drink regular water, low sodium, flouridated and all, with bubbles!
posted by tomble at 6:37 PM on August 4, 2006

As others have mentioned, the acid in soda water isn't strong enough to affect your teeth. Furthermore, your saliva rapidly replaces and buffers the soda water, so there will be no lasting effects which would necessitate brushing teeth.

The AskAScientist archives has some information about the effect of carbonation on the body

Of course, there's this minority report, but it's pretty clear to me that the answerer, in this case, is merely expressing an unresearched opinion. I would believe the Nutritionist in the third link.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:46 PM on August 4, 2006

« Older Korea to Toronto   |   MS Word help wanted Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.