JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Pop, fizz... can you hear it now? The unmistakable sound of a carbonated beverage being opened. Not soda...but the drink of the day: flavored seltzer.
Seems like everyone's drinking the bubbly water with just the hint of fruity essence. Sure, it's the glammed-up version of good 'ol H2O, but dentists are alerting patients to a potential risk that may leave fizzy fans frowning.
When Peter Shankman set out to lose weight, he exercised a ton and switched from diet soda to flavored seltzer.
“I could get that same sort of fizziness, that same feeling in the back of my throat. I’d get full; it had no calories, and it had no artificial anything,” said Shankman.
He lost the weight and still drinks it... a lot.
“On a typical day, I probably go through two to three liters of seltzer,” said Shankman.
Seltzer is merely carbonated water. 168 million gallons of the stuff were sold in the U.S. in 2015 and popularity is exploding. When flavored, essences of acidic fruit like lemon, lime, and cherry are added.
Dentists say it's those acids that can potentially be an issue.
"What we're seeing as dentists is a corresponding increase in erosion of teeth," said Dr. Edmond Hewlett. He is a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. He says the acids eat away at enamel. There are no hard numbers in terms of cases linked to seltzer, but research has shown the risk is real.
"In moderate consumption, it's not a big deal. But the risk is frequent exposure," said Dr. Hewlett. How you drink it matters, too. It is better to chug than to sip because sipping allows the acid to stay on teeth longer. But the worst thing you can do? Something called swilling.
“So, swilling a beverage, keeping it in the mouth, flushing it around, it’s like giving your teeth an acid Jacuzzi," said Dr. Hewlett.
To lower risk, drink regular water in between as a rinse. Or, occasionally, mix a little baking soda in water to help neutralize acids.
Shankman will continue to chug and drinks plenty of plain water, too. Regardless, he says for him the benefits of seltzer outweigh any potential risks.
“You gotta live a little. If my version of living a little is seltzer? I think I’m doing okay!”
As for the tip often bantered about that drinking with a straw is better because the drink bypasses your teeth. Dr. Hewlett says there really isn't scientific evidence to back that up, but that it couldn't hurt. He does say that drinking the flavored seltzer with food is better than without because the food helps stimulate saliva, which will aid in rinsing any acid out of your mouth.