Drinking seltzer is not the same as drinking water.
In an article that devastated HuffPost's bubbly water enthusiasts, The Atlantic reported Monday that even unflavored carbonated water can have damaging effects on oral health.
Fizzy water's only mainstay ingredient besides water is carbonic acid, which gives the beverage its bubbles but can weaken tooth enamel over time.
The good news? Sparkling water is still a better choice than both diet and regular flavored sodas, which are associated with obesity and diabetes.
Even for enamel erosion, plain soda water is still a better choice than "real" soda. As The Atlantic reported, the lower a liquid's pH level -- an indicator of its acidic content -- the more damaging it can be:
[...Carbonic acid is] 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 flavors are where things turn especially sour. A study from the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Dental Hospital concluded that flavored soda waters are nearly just as bad for teeth as soda. The pH of a lime-flavored seltzer, for example, may cause close to the same amount of damage to your teeth as a cola. Flavored soda waters pH levels range from 2.74 to 3.34, while Coca Cola has a pH level of around 2.525.
(At the risk of sounding dramatic, for reference, battery acid has a pH of 1.0. )
Damien Walmsley, a professor of dentistry at the University of Birmingham, told The Atlantic that seltzer isn't that much of a risk for the average healthy person, but there are measures you can take to reduce potential damage as much as possible. Read about them at The Atlantic.
If you're wondering if your San Pellegrino is safer than more pedestrian club soda, it's not. Carbonated waters of all walks of life contain carbonic acid. And to blow your mind a little more, we'll have you know that club soda, seltzer and mineral water are all different drinks.
As HuffPost previously reported, both seltzer water and club soda have been artificially carbonated, but the latter contains added mineral-like ingredients like potassium sulfate. Dr. Mark Wolff, a professor at New York University's College of Dentistry, told HuffPost that the added minerals don't increase the tooth erosion.
"The minerals could actually help reduce erosion a bit by changing the solubility of the tooth," he said.
There can also be variation within a type of bubbly water when brand comes into play. In its 2014 quality report, Nestle listed Perrier's pH as 5.8. Wolff said this number shows that Perrier is more acidic than other fizzy waters, which average a pH of 6.8.
While he explained there's not too much to worry about when it comes to plain carbonated water and enamel erosion, if you are particularly sensitive or concerned, you might consider giving up Perrier for good.
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