In the world of dentistry, proper hydration is something we constantly preach. If you’re chronically dehydrated, it can lead to conditions like dry mouth and bad breath. Dry mouth can in turn lead to tooth decay since the mouth is unable to produce the saliva that protects your teeth. Plus bad breath is just unpleasant. We want to help everyone improve that condition as well. So drinking water is often touted as an easy and inexpensive way to protect your teeth. But there is growing concern about drinking bottled water regularly and what it might do to your teeth. Let’s look at some studies to determine whether bottled water is bad for your teeth.
Any conversation about whether bottle water is bad for your teeth requires a brief explanation of pH. The pH scale is set up to measure whether a substance is acidic or base. The system uses a scale of 1 to 14 where 1 is extremely acidic, 7 is a neutral substance, and 14 is extremely basic. So how does this fit into bottled water? Ideally you want all the water you drink to be neutral or a 7 on the pH scale. If a substance is acidic, it can contribute to bacteria growth in your mouth, which translates to tooth decay. For example, coffee is a 5 on the pH scale, and this acid can be hard on your teeth if regularly consumed. Orange juice is around a 3.7, which means it is even more acidic.
So water is supposed to be neutral. What’s the problem? Well many bottled waters are produced by soda companies, and they have a secret weapon to keep their products last longer on the shelf. They bottle them with acidic pH levels so they will last longer. This goes for bottled water as well. A higher acidic level will ensure a better shelf life, which saves the company money. The Journal of Dental Hygiene found that 10 out of their 14 tested bottle water brands are in fact acidic. Further more, they recommended that patients be aware of this potential issue with bottled water.
So the proof is there. Some bottled water is acidic, and it could be harming your teeth if you’re drinking several bottles a day. The key here is determining whether your brand is rated acidic or not. You can do a search of the brand, and you may be able to find the pH listed on the web. Or you can buy pH strips and conduct a little science experiment at home. A word of caution, some brands may list their pH level a little less acidic than it tests. So be weary of marketing on the bottle, and rather look for brands that confirm to have around a 7 pH level. There is one more element to consider in bottled water aside from acidity, and that is its fluoride content.
In addition to the issue of acidity, it’s worth examining how consuming water without fluoride will affect long term dental health. This is assuming that one drinks only bottled water, or makes it the primary source of their drinking water day in and day out. A causal use of bottled water here and there would have a lesser effect. The ADA Confirms that lack of significant fluoride in bottled water could contribute to more dental health issues. So it’s worth paying attention to fluoride levels in your bottled water as well. Unfortunately, this is harder to test than with an inexpensive pH strip. Do your research on the brand, or contact them to learn more about fluoride content.
In the end, perhaps the best way to look at these studies is similar to how we view soda and coffee use. Is it ideal for your teeth? It certainly is not, and regular consumption of these beverages will lead to more potential issues. But many people drink beverages like coffee in moderation, rinse with fluoridated water and develop no serious issues. In this same vein, it is important to exercise moderation when consuming bottled water. Drink it within a half hour to minimize the potential exposure to acidic pH. If you're relying on bottled water as your primary source of drinking water, investigate other options or search neutral water bottle options with fluoridation. Drinking with a straw will also minimize exposure to your teeth. And please don’t stop drinking water if its the only available option! Staying hydrated is much more important than the alternative.
Maybe the biggest issue here is the assumption that bottled water is perfectly safe for your teeth. Of course more studies will be helpful, but given the existing data, it is wise to be a little cautious with the idea of regular and habitual bottled water use. If you’re worried about your bottled water use, schedule a checkup with Grace & Leedy Family Dentistry for a checkup and to talk with our staff. Contact us today to get started.