I have so many patients come in for their routine cleaning/check-up and are astonished they have a new cavity! When they tell me they have not changed anything differently with their homecare routine (and it’s a good routine and they are actually doing what they say ;)) I like to dig a little deeper into their nutritional choices. I always go over nutritional counseling with them to see if we can find any acidic food/drinks that maybe causing a new cavity. Patients have a tendency to say “I don’t drink soda/energy drinks or I rarely do.” However, soda/energy drinks are not the only culprit out there affecting your teeth! It can actually be the flavored water/teas you are choosing to drink instead of the soda….sorry but it’s the truth!
All you LaCroix/Waterloo addicts just hear me out. I am also talking to all of you San Pellegrino, Hint, Spindrift, Sparkling Ice and other sparkling water drinkers. You need to know the facts before you guzzle down a twelve pack in a couple of days. I see you at the grocery store loading up on cases of that stuff. 😉
A beverage’s pH is the main issue due to its potential to erode teeth. Anything with a pH less than 4 is considered a threat to dental health. The lower the pH, the more acidic a drink is, and the more harmful it is to your teeth. Regular tap water typically has a pH between 6 and 8.
Beverages with a pH less than 4 are potentially damaging to the teeth.
The concern with a pH level less than 4 in the mouth is it can cause what dental professionals like to call Dental Erosion. Dental Erosion is the chemical erosive potential of tooth structure in the absence of bacteria when the environment is acidic. (pH < 4.0). Teeth erode in the pH range of 2.0 to 4.0.
This means the enamel on the teeth, over time, can be structurally damaged and make them hypersensitive to temperature and potentially more cavity-prone. If you are having 3-4 acidic drinks throughout the day with a pH of 4.0 or less, that could be the cause of your new CAVITY!
Below are some common beverages patients tell me they drink to include soda for comparison. I will broke it into 2 categories due to the acidity and pH level.
Extremely Erosive pH of 2.0-3.0
- pH of Coca-Cola is 2.37
- pH of Pepsi is 2.39
- pH of lemon juice is 2.4
- pH of Schweppes Tonic water is 2.54
- Ocean Spray Cranberry is 2.56
- Simply Lemonade is 2.61
- Lipton Green Tea With Citrus Diet is 2.92
- Snapple Peach Tea is 2.94
- V8 Splash Berry Blend is 2.94
- Nestea Iced Tea With Natural Lemon Flavor 2.94
- Powerade Zero Grape is 2.97
- pH of Gatorade Lemon-Lime is 2.97
Erosive is 3.0-3.9
- Propel Berry is 3.01
- Dasani Strawberry is 3.03
- Vitamin Water Zero Acai-Blueberry-Pomergranate is 3.05
- Fresca (1 liter) is 3.08
- Crystal Light Green Tea Raspberry Mix 3.11
- Arizona Diet Green Tea þ Ginseng is 3.29
- Welch’s 100% Grape Juice 3.38
- Waterloo Lemon 3.3
- LaCroix Pamplemousse 3.33
- Monster Energy 3.48
- pH of apple juice is 3.57
- Hint Water pH 3.5 to 4.
(This information comes from A 2016 report published in the Journal of the American Dental Association) Link below
The problem is when you combine carbonation AND flavors to drinks you create an acidic environment for the teeth. Dental erosion from beverages is primarily caused by phosphoric acid and citric acid. Americans are consuming more acidic drinks, fruit juices, fruit drinks, sports drinks, and carbonated beverages than ever before. This increase is now thought to be the leading cause of dental erosion.
I’m not saying these drinks are bad choices for your overall health! I am saying they can potentially be detrimental to your teeth when consumed in excess!
Happily, there are some drinks that are in the tooth-safe zone (you can go ahead and drink your plain sparkling water without worry). Carbonation (which is adding carbonic acid) lowers the pH to about 5. The problems start when you add flavors and citric acid (which is commonly used in bottled flavored drinks). Beverages with natural fruit/flavor essences (mostly citric and other fruit acids) can cause significant tooth erosion.
- S. Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water is 4.96
- Unsweetened Black Tea 4.9
- Starbucks Medium Roast is 5.11
- Canada Dry Club Soda 5.2
- Perrier carbonated mineral water is 5.25
- Milk 6.6-6.8
- Tap water is 6-8
Flavored water is still way better to drink than soda, which is not only more erosive but also contains unhealthy amounts of sugar and empty calories. All sparkling waters are less acidic than traditional soft drinks and juices, with the added benefit of no sugar, sweeteners, coloring, or artificial ingredients. I’m not saying you need to take an all-or-nothing approach, instead minimize the amount you consume so you are not damaging your teeth.
Go for regular water or plain carbonated water for your main hydration! Save the flavored stuff for an occasional treat! You also could have it with a meal or snack. Drink it fast vs sipping it slowly throughout the day! Oh and don’t swish with it. (people will sometimes do this to get food or taste out of their mouth.) You could even use a straw to help lessen the damage to the teeth.
I hope this helps you understand where your next cavity/sensitivity/erosion could come from. Ask your Dental Hygienist or Dentist the next time you get a new cavity to review your own nutritional counseling.
Hoping to start the conversation!