More than $100 billion is spent worldwide each year on bottled water, and Americans spend nearly $12 billion annually on bottled water, according to National Geographic.
But is bottled better than tap water or just more convenient? And have you ever wondered which option is best for you and your family’s teeth?
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the content and labeling of bottled water, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards for tap water to ensure it’s free of contaminants. Tap water comes from rivers and lakes, so it’s treated with chlorine to kill harmful bacteria and some viruses.
There are definite benefits to drinking water out of the tap. For example, the EPA mandates that fluoride be added to tap water (at the level of 4 milligrams per liter) to help prevent cavities. Fluoride is absorbed into the teeth and makes them more resistant to tooth decay. There is strong consensus in the international dental community that water fluoridation is the most cost-effective measure available to reduce the occurence of tooth decay.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks water fluoridation among the top-10 public health achievements of the 20th century. Tooth decay among children (4 to 17 years old) decreased an average of 29 percent after water fluoridation, according to studies by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, an independent group appointed by the CDC director.
According to the EPA, fluoridation also provides some protection against skeletal fluorosis, a painful joint condition.
Bottled water does not usually contain fluoride. Drinking bottled water exclusively, then, can increase the risk of cavities in some people. And, with each American drinking 21 gallons of bottled water each year, or two gallons every month, we may not be getting enough fluoride.
Another health risk associated with bottled water is the plastic bottle it comes in. Several studies, including a 2006 Canadian study, found that plastic bottles leach chemicals into the water inside them. The researchers found that the longer the water sits inside the bottle, the higher the concentration of certain chemicals like antimony, a metallic element that can cause dizziness, nausea and depression.
But an even bigger problem may be the acidity of some bottled water. Recent students have revealed that most popular brands of bottled water are highly acidic, with a pH as low as 4.0. A pH of 7 is neutral. Anything above 7 is alkaline and anything below is considered acidic.
Water with a pH level less than 5.5 will start to break down tooth enamel through acid erosion. At pH 6.6, cavity-causing bacteria starts to grow like crazy in your mouth. If water is pH neutral (7) or alkaline (greater than 7), the teeth are safe.
The pH is largely determined by the water’s mineral content. This will differs depending on the source of the water and the purification process that was used. Read the label to determine which waters have a higher pH. In general, if water contains added minerals or electrolytes for taste, then it is likely to have a low pH level.
Sipping on water – or any drink – with a low pH level all day is like giving your teeth a constant, low-level acid bath. A recent article in the Journal of Dental Hygiene tested the pH levels of several popular water brands as well as a few municipal water sources. The results (water brand and pH) were as follows:
Ozarks natural spring water – 5.16
Aquafina – 5.63
Dasani – 5.72
Nestle Pure Life – 6.24
Evian – 6.89
Fiji – 6.9
Smartwater – 6.91
Houston tap – 7.29
Pasadena tap – 7.58
Evamor – 8.78
If you want healthy teeth in Lawrence, Kansas, or wherever you live, tap water may be the best choice. Bottled water is convenient and might taste better than some tap water, but it may pose a big, unnecessary threat to your smile.
For more tips on maintaining healthy teeth in Lawrence, visit www.jamesottendds.com. We provide excellent, personalized care by compassionate people in a quiet and comfortable environment. If you’re looking for these qualities in your dentist, we’d love to help. For healthy teeth in Lawrence, call 785.843.6404 to schedule a checkup today.