By Jaime O’Neill DDS

The decline of soft drink consumption in the United States over the past few years is one of the more significant trends in the country’s battle against numerous health issues, including tooth decay. That is very good news.

Many former soft drink lovers have switched over to sparkling waters, a trend the soft drink companies have embraced. While this is preferable to soft drinks and sugary, fruit-flavored beverages, you still need to pay attention to the ingredients. Many sparkling water brands include flavor additives high in sugar that might not be much better than soft drinks. There are some popular brands with natural flavors and no artificial sweeteners, which are preferable. So keep an eye on the label and try and stay away from sparkling waters with sweetened additives.

Another issue: As with all carbonated beverages, sparkling water has a higher acid level. There are mixed reports on the impact of acidic sparkling waters on tooth enamel, with some suggesting the acidity can weaken the enamel.

However, in one study noted by the American Dental Association researchers tested to see whether non-citrus flavored sparkling water would attack tooth enamel more aggressively than regular lab water. The result? The two forms of water were about the same in their effects on tooth enamel. This finding suggests that, even though sparkling water is slightly more acidic than ordinary water, it’s all just water to your teeth.

So while I am happy to see more of my patients moving away from soft drinks and embracing sparkling waters, here are a few reminders:

  • While additive-free sparkling water is far better for your teeth that sugary drinks don’t forget to drink plenty of regular, fluorinated water as well. Water with fluoride naturally helps fight cavities, washes away the leftover food cavity-causing bacteria feast on and keeps your mouth from becoming dry, which can put you at a higher risk of cavities.
  • Be mindful of what’s in your sparkling water. Citrus-flavored waters often have higher acid levels that do increase the risk of damage to your enamel. So don’t overdue consumption of these beverages.
  • Sparkling water brands with added sugar can’t be considered sparkling water. They are a sugar-sweetened beverage, which can contribute to your risk of developing cavities. So, sparkling or not, plain water is always the best choice.