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Flavored Water is Actually Bad for Your Health, Says Study

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Acidic beverages promote tooth decay

Find out why flavored water and other "healthy alternative" beverages are actually bad for your health and what you should do if you just have to have one.


We've been told that there's no good that can come from drinking sugary beverages such as sodas which are linked to obesity and, in fact, just one a day can lead to diabetes. Instead of soda and its ilk, we've been advised to replace those beverages with healthy alternatives such as adding a slice of lemon or lime to your water or create a fruit infusion concoction that is both refreshing and heathy. But is it?

According to a new study published in the British Dental Journal, many people are suffering from severe tooth erosion because of the healthy alternative beverages they are turning to with a low pH and the way they drink them.

Basically, pH is a measure of the hydrogen ion concentration of a solution that ranges from 0 to 14. Beverages with a high concentration of hydrogen ions (such as your favorite cola) have a low pH of about 2 and are referred to as high-acid. Water is considered neutral in pH and is scaled as 7.0. Milk is only slightly acidic with a pH of around 6.5 to 6.7. On the other side of the scale, bleach has a high pH of 13-14 and is referred to as being low-acid or basic.

The problem with acidic beverages is that they erode away the protective enamel of your teeth. As any child who has done a simple science project of placing old pennies in a glass of Coca Cola will tell you, the acidity of the soda makes them remarkably clean. In fact, some use Coke as a hack to clean the corrosion on car battery terminals.

What the researchers found by observing the diet habits of 300 study participants with severe tooth erosion is that the more people snack, the more tooth erosion they experienced--even if the snacking was done with "healthier" drinks in replacement of soda.

For example, people who had drinks such as water with a slice of lemon or hot fruit-flavored teas twice a day for a snack were at least 11 times more likely to have moderate or severe tooth erosion. Furthermore, diet soda drinks were found to be just as corrosive as sugary sodas

However, it's not just the drinking of acidic beverages that is causing tooth erosion problems, but the way we drink them as well. BBC News reported that researchers from King's College London found that drinking acidic beverages between meals and savoring them for too long by continuously sipping or holding these drinks in the mouth before swallowing increased the risk of tooth erosion from acid.

"If you drink things for long periods of time, greater than five minutes, or if you play with things in your mouth or if you nibble on fruit over a few minutes rather than eating them as a whole fruit--these are things that can really damage your teeth," says Dr. Saoirse O'Toole, the lead study author, from King's College London Dental Institute.

"If you're going to have an apple as a snack at lunchtime, then try not to have anything acidic later on in the evening…If you are going to have a glass of wine in the evening, then don't have your fruit tea in the morning…just balance things in your diet."

Better Ways to Take Beverages

If you just have to have that acidic beverage, here are some better ways to drink with less tooth damage:

--Drink your beverage with your meals. Saliva production in the mouth while eating actually buffers the acidity of the beverage.

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--Don't sip your drinks to make them last or savor the moment, finish them off and move on.

--Use a straw when possible so as to lessen the direct exposure of your teeth to the drink.

--Have some milk or cheese with that drink to neutralize the acidity of the beverage in your mouth.

--Don't be fooled into thinking all teas are healthy. Fruit-flavored teas such as ginger and lemon tea, berry tea or rosehip tea are acidic. Go for Green tea as a healthier choice.

--Brush or rinse with dental cleaning products immediately after finishing your meal and beverage. According to the study it can take anywhere from 2-13 minutes after drinking an acidic beverage before your mouth pH environment returns to a normal less-acidic pH.

For more about good dental care, here are some recommended articles for your consideration:

Dental Advice for Baby's First Tooth

Dental Hacks to Save Your Money and Your Teeth

No More Cavities with These Affordable Tooth Decay Hacks, Study Shows


BBC News "Sipping acidic fruit teas can wear away teeth, says study"

British Dental Journal Published online 23 February 2018 "The role of the diet in tooth wear" S. O'Toole et al.

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