Just about everyone loves soda, even if they don’t drink it regularly. But over the past ten years, consumption has been steadily declining as concerns about its sugar content – among other things – steer people away from the sweet, fizzy beverages.
Perhaps that gap between desire and responsibility is why seltzer water has exploded onto the scene. Multiple brands from La Croix to Polar now compete for customer attention, promising unique flavors with exactly zero calories and no sugar.
So…is seltzer a healthy alternative to soda? The answer is a bit complicated.
Why Soda Is So Bad for Teeth
Before talking about seltzer, let’s remind ourselves of why soda can be so terrible for your teeth.
Soda’s first problem is its sugar content. The sugar itself introduces calories, but calories don’t accumulate in your teeth. Your mouth is full of bacteria, and when this bacteria sees sugar, it breaks it down into acid. That acid is what erodes your enamel, and it’s why not brushing your teeth is especially bad: the sugar just lingers there, producing more acid.
But soda itself also contains phosphoric and citric acid, both for taste and as a preservative. It’s not nice stuff; there’s a reason Coke can clean corrosion off of battery terminals!
Acid vs. Sugar
Seltzer has no sugar, meaning that it will not cause plaque buildup like soda does. But unfortunately, the acid is still there.
Seltzer is made by pumping carbon dioxide into water. The carbon dioxide turns into carbonic acid, which has a pH of around 3 or 4. If you remember your high school chemistry class, you’ll remember that a low pH is acidic, and a high pH is basic.
Water has a pH of 7, and anything around 4 starts to become erosive. When you consider that acidic flavorings like citrus are often added to seltzer, the problem starts to become obvious. It is important to note, however, that food can raise the pH in your mouth, slightly negating the effects of acid.
So is seltzer better for your teeth than soda? Technically yes, but it’s not a free pass! Seltzer should be enjoyed in moderation, preferably with food, and there’s no replacement for good old fashioned water.