Contrary to popular belief, sugary treats and soda aren’t the only things we consume regularly that can impact dental health: Even plain ol’ water plays a role in the strength of your enamel. (Some types of water can be even more acidic than soda, which is one of the primary conduits for unwanted cavities.) We spoke with two dentists who shared why water impacts the strength of your pearly whites and which are the best types of water for dental health.
Why certain types of water can be more or less damaging to your teeth
According to dentist Onaedo Achebe, DDS, the founder of Minti Oral Care, water acidity levels are the main factor of concern when it comes to dental health. “Certain types of water can be bad for teeth health if they are too acidic, which can contribute to tooth erosion over time. If water is too acidic, it can gradually wear away the protective layer of tooth enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay,” Dr. Achebe says.
The best way to tell whether or not water—or any drink for that matter—is too acidic is by examining its pH level. “Water with a pH below seven is considered acidic, while water above seven is considered alkaline. In general, water with a pH level between 7.5 and 8.5 is considered the safest for dental health,” Dr. Achebe says.
“In general, water with a pH level between 7.5 and 8.5 is considered the safest for dental health,” Dr. Achebe says.
Dentist Brian Harris, DDS/DMD, lead medical advisor at SNOW and Frost Oral Care, agrees that we’re wrong to assume that sugar is the only thing we consume regularly that can accelerate the decay of our dental enamel. “Most people would think that all water and most zero-calorie drinks would be good for your teeth and help prevent cavities, but that is not the case as cavities are not caused by sugar alone; they are caused by a bacteria called streptococcus mutans. These bacteria consume the sugar and release acid, which is what causes the cavities,” Dr. Harris says.
Thus, the root cause of most cavities is both sugar and acid. “The goal is to eliminate excess acid. Thus, it’s important to make sure that the things we drink are not always acidic, as bacteria can thrive in these environments between zero to five pH,” says Dr. Harris.
The best types of water for dental health
Because of the fact that acid is of utmost concern when it comes to deciphering the best types of water for dental health, Dr. Achebe recommends drinking water with a higher pH level—meaning more alkaline, less acidic—whenever possible. “When it comes to the pH level of water, a slightly alkaline level of 7.5 to 8.5 is recommended for optimal oral health,” she says. “It’s smart to make sure that your water is free from harmful contaminants, too.”
Rather surprisingly, Dr. Achebe says that water can have pH levels as low, meaning as acidic, as soda. “Thus, the three types of water I recommend drinking are natural spring water, alkaline water, or filtered tap water—if you have access to a clean, reliable source. These types of water can help to hydrate the body and promote overall health, including oral health,” Dr. Achebe says. Dr. Harris adds that most bottled water will have a pH of 5.5-6.5, which isn’t necessarily ‘bad’ for your dental hygiene—it’s just not exactly ideal.
“Thus, the three types of water I recommend drinking are natural spring water, alkaline water, or filtered tap water—if you have access to a clean, reliable source. These types of water can help to hydrate the body and promote overall health, including oral health,” Dr. Achebe says.
The least dental health-promoting drinks, according to dentists
Dr. Achebe keeps it plain and simple: The two worst types of drinks for dental health are sugary and acidic ones, such as soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and fruit juices, aka those with a 2.9-3.5 pH level. What’s more, some artificially-flavored and carbonated water can also teeter on the acidic side, too, with a pH of 3.1-4.2. “These types of drinks can contribute to tooth decay and erosion over time,” she says.
While Dr. Achebe says that avoiding these beverages is the most effective way to avoid tooth decay, you can still mitigate the potential damage caused by them with a few easy steps. “To lessen the harm caused by these drinks, I recommend rinsing with water right after you drink them and incorporating more natural and nutrient-rich alternatives in your rotation, such as coconut water or freshly squeezed vegetable juices,” Dr. Achebe says. “Additionally, practicing good oral hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, can help to maintain healthy teeth and gums.”
An RD shares a guide to the most hydrating foods: