Aussies are drinking more and more bottled water instead of tap water. Spending upwards of $35 per person per year on bottled water. Tooth decay and erosion are on the rise too. In this article we’ll look at the different kinds of bottled waters, compare them to tap water and bust some myths fueling the bottled water trend that’s impacting oral health so you can keep a healthy smile throughout your life.
What are the different kinds of bottled water available?
The first question you often get asked by a friendly waitperson once you’re seated at a cafe or restaurant is: “Still, sparkling or tap?”. Let’s dive into the differences between these water options.
Typically ‘still water’ refers to non-carbonated bottled water. It may come from a natural source or an exotic location, it may have additives like minerals – making it ‘mineral water’ or vitamins, or flavours including sugar. The pH of still water can vary from acidic (pH below 5.5) to neutral (pH 5.6 – 7.4), to alkaline (pH above 7.5).
Sparkling water refers to water formulations that have been carbonated to give them fizz or bubbles. This carbonating process reduces the pH of the water to 3-4, making the water very acidic and giving it a distinctive tart taste that many find quite refreshing. Sparkling water can have all the same additives as found in still water, a common combination being quinine and sugar that makes ‘tonic water’.
Tap water is simply what comes out of the tap. In most places, fluoride is added to help prevent tooth decay. It has a neutral pH and no other additives.
Is bottled water healthier than tap water?
Nearly 50% of Australians incorrectly believe bottled water is healthier or safer than tap water. So let’s clear up this myth with some solid facts:
- Australia has some of the most stringent regulations for water safety in the world, making our tap water some of the cleanest water to drink in the world
- All water – bottled or tap – has to undergo mechanical and/or chemical filtration to remove particles, toxic substances like arsenic and microbes that could cause illness
- Many bottled waters contain microplastics that can be ingested
- Plastic bottle degradation over time can leach into bottled water that is then consumed
- Mineral profiles on bottled waters may not match the mineral profile of the water in the bottle
So no, bottled water is no healthier than tap water in most places in Australia.
Will bottled water cause tooth decay?
If water is flavoured with sugar then the risk of developing tooth decay becomes higher. Other factors are also involved, like how frequently you consume processed sugars, including sugar in drinks, daily. How well you clean your teeth daily also impacts on developing tooth decay.
Please avoid beverages that have any sugar to help protect your smile.
Why is acidic water bad for teeth?
Acidic water pH will cause tooth structure erosion. This means hard crystalline enamel and dentine layers of teeth will soften and dissolve, causing tooth loss and sensitivity to temperature changes and often sweet foods. This can require the use of more expensive toothpastes to manage or even restorations to be placed by a dentist to fix the damage caused.
Please limit your consumption of acidic beverages to once or twice a week at most to help protect your smile.
Let’s take a moment for the environment
Bottles to package water can be made from glass, plastic or aluminium. Plastic and glass bottles in particular are designed to be single use only. While glass and plastic bottles can be recycled, many are not. Discarded plastic bottles take up to 1000 years to break down into landfill, or the ocean where they often end up. This is contributing to a huge environmental problem globally.
Tap water is much better for the environment, it’s also much cheaper – less than 1c/L, unlike bottled water that can be $3-10+/L.
Next time you’re about to buy bottled water, please ask yourself if the price of convenience is worth it?