Is Seltzer Bad For Your Teeth?

Acidic food and drinks can cause lots of harm to your teeth by wearing away enamel. Here's how to prevent damage to your teeth from acid erosion.

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Is Seltzer Bad For Your Teeth?

I like to drink seltzer water -- I make it at home from tap water, with a CO2 cartridge. A neighbor told me that she's asked a million dentists and they all agree that seltzer is very bad for your teeth. I believe she's thinking of carbonic acid. It's not like I have a tank of seltzer hooked to me at all times...really, is it that bad to drink seltzer?

A: As you imply, carbonated drinks take many forms. And that’s why my answer to your question is: it depends.

You can get some expensive bubbly waters from deep down in the earth in France for beaucoup bucks, or make some at home for much less.

If you’ve been reading the blog, you know I’m a big fan of Pellegrino water for its alkaline effect in the mouth.

So what makes a bubbly drink good or bad for your teeth?

What’s the Difference Between Soda and Sparkling Water?

Carbonated water, also known as sparkling water, fizzy water, seltzer, and water with gas is plain water into which carbon dioxide gas has been dissolved, and is the major and defining ingredient of soft drinks.

This process of dissolving carbon dioxide gas is called carbonation. It results in the formation of an acid (carbonic acid).

Carbonic Acid

Carbonated water, also known as soda water, can be produced at home by “charging” a refillable seltzer bottle (remember “get busy with fizzy”?) by filling it with water and then adding carbon dioxide.

Club soda may be identical to plain carbonated water or it may contain a small amount of table salt, sodium citrate, sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate, potassium citrate, potassium sulfate, or disodium phosphate, depending on the manufacturer.

These additives are included to emulate the slightly salty taste of homemade soda water.

The process can also occur naturally to produce carbonated mineral water such as Perrier or Pellegrino.

The acidity of the carbonated beverage is determined by the partial pressure of the carbon dioxide.

Partial pressure typical of the one in soda drink bottles produces a medium acidity (pH3.7) with a high concentration of dissolved carbon dioxide.

This pH contributes to the sour and tart taste of the soda.

Over time the acid dissolves the calcium in your teeth leaving behind a mushy mess called a cavity.

I tested my everyday drinks with pH papers (cheap on Amazon).

According to my test, a natural mineral water like Pellegrino is a low acid beverage (6.8-7.7).

What I recommend: Test your homemade seltzer to make sure it’s the same. Again, it depends on the amount of gas dissolved into the water.

As an aside, for general health, it’s better to drink a beverage that is neutral to slightly alkaline.

Some acidic foods like oranges and lemons become alkaline in our bodies (a good thing) as a result of the digestive process. Bad for the teeth, but good for the body.

Some acidic foods are good for you. So keep water nearby and always sip water while eating healthy acidic foods.

Stomach acid is way more acidic than anything we can eat, so once “down the hatch” it’s okay.

The best pH for the mouth is probably neutral or slightly higher than neutral pH.

This pH in the mouth makes it less hospitable for the bacteria that cause cavities, something I will discuss in detail soon.

Based on pH levels alone, the best-bottled waters to drink are San Pellegrino (pH 7.7), Fiji (pH 7.5), Evian (pH 7.2) and Volvic (pH 7.0).

Stay away from Perrier (pH 5.5).

I do not know where your homemade seltzer waterfalls on my list of recommendations, but this is something you can easily test yourself and maybe even get to rub it in your neighbor’s face — well, maybe best not 🙂

However, I hope I made it clear that drinking waters can vary in pH, and therefore have different levels of effects on your teeth, and even health.

So that’s a general guideline to follow. Remember it’s always best to test with pH papers to know exactly what’s coming into contact with your teeth.

Mark Burhenne DDS

Read Next: Dry Mouth: Consequences, Causes, and Treatments

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  1. Dr. B — in the paragraph where you talk about the best bottled waters being Pellegrino etc. and not Perrier, are you referencing the pH of sparkling or still? I would assume sparkling but I just wanted make sure before passing on this information to a friend who was curious, because the sentence itself just says the best bottled waters, which default implies still water. Please clarify, thanks!

    • Sparkling. That’s the whole subject of the article.

  2. Karen mendola says:

    Does selzer water take the enamel off of your teeth?

    • Yes …. yes it does.

      • No, no it doesn’t. It doesn’t say that ANYWHERE in this article.

    • Brian: This is great information. I’m going to go home and test it again with some pH strips. Thanks for finding this information. It may mean updating the blog post.


      • While you are checking the pH on the website, find the one place where San Pelligrino says that carbonation is added to the process. Big difference between Naturally Sparkling Mineral Water and Sparkling Natural (like what water isn’t “natural”) Mineral Water. Perrier and Apollinaris I believe are naturally sparkling. that’s marketing for you.

      • Dear Dr. Burhenne,
        3 questions —
        1) What did your at-home test show for the Pellegrino Ph level?
        2) If it’s 5.8 as Nestle claims in their 2016 pdf document, does that mean San Pellegrino is not good for teeth?
        3) Since Pellegrino bubbles are added to the water by the manufacturer, which you were not aware of at the time you wrote the original blog post, does that change your opinion of the safety of it for teeth?

  3. Sarah Moore says:

    I appreciate this update… this goes to show how so very important it is to have UPDATED information when practicing in the medical field and there for giving out advise. I feel this is a reoccurring issue that is a huge hinderance on any advances in medical science (misleading guidance). It is so important to be your own advocate….

  4. Best “advice”, as given by Dr. Mark Burhenne in this article: Buy your own PH papers (they are cheap and simple to use). Test all your beverages. Further, consider checking them again from time to time as all ‘sources’ are variable. The whole point being: try to maintain healthy PH in the mouth. The net result is an environment less likely to contribute to tooth enamel erosion.

    Better to rely on the facts than unsubstantiated opinion (essentially belief bias).

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