Anyone with a nose can tell you that coffee breath is no joke — but does sparkling water cause bad breath too? As a matter of fact, sparkling water and other carbonated beverages can have a demonstrable effect on the way our breath smells.
Sparkling water is typically free of sweeteners, caffeine, and other well-known bad breath causing ingredients. For that reason, it’s logical to think it wouldn’t have any more impact on the smell of our breath than regular water. However, there’s a bit more to it.
Because sparkling water is acidic, it may contribute to bad breath (halitosis) by causing your mouth to become drier. A dry mouth lacks saliva, which is responsible for washing away food particles and bacteria. Without saliva, these agents of bad breath are able to linger among your teeth, gums, and tongue for longer periods of time. This can lead to unpleasant breath.
Additionally, sparkling water and some other beverages may interact with the volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) that exist in your mouth – causing a smelly situation. VSCs are the byproduct of bacteria that survive in your mouth and throat, particularly in crevices of your tonsils or gums.
Why Sparkling Water May Dry Out Your Mouth (and Cause Bad Breath)
Most people are not aware of the fact that sparkling water is acidic – as is almost every carbonated beverage, from soda to beer and champagne. Acid dries out our mouths by hindering our salivary glands from making enough saliva.
Without an adequate amount of saliva, we may have more difficulty chewing, swallowing, digesting food, and maintaining fresh breath.
But don’t be so quick to blame your breath on sparkling water. A variety of other factors can also cause dry mouth (xerostomia), from dehydration to medications and even old age.
Why Are Carbonated Beverages Acidic?
When a beverage becomes carbonated, it is saturated with CO2 gas, otherwise known as carbon dioxide. Most of it remains a gas, creating the bubbles that we enjoy so much. But a small amount of the CO2 dissolves into the water, forming carbonic acid.
Carbonic acid is a weak acid, but it can still cause water to become more acidic. The average pH of sparkling water is about 4.5 (acidic). The pH of regular tap water varies greatly from one location to another, but EPA guidelines say it should fall between 6.5 and 8.5 (neutral).
However, the pH of our tap water usually doesn’t align with EPA guidelines. In fact, our tap water in the United States can sometimes be just as acidic as sparkling water. Much of it falls somewhere between 4.3 and 5.3.
Alkaline Sparkling Water
Alkaline sparkling water is rare, but it does exist. As you might expect, it can be made by neutralizing the acidity with a more basic addition – baking soda perhaps.
Alkaline or pH balanced sparkling water is less likely to dry out your mouth and cause bad breath. In fact, some dentists recommend alkaline water as treatment for dry mouth.
Can Sparkling Water Cause Tonsil Stones?
Tonsil stones are small round lumps of calcified food, debris or bacteria that may form in the tonsils. They are quite common and not harmful, and they may be a result of poor oral hygiene or dehydration. They are also more common among people who have had a lot of tonsil infections – also known as tonsillitis.
Particularly for those who are already prone to tonsil stones, sparkling water may contribute to their formation. We know that carbonated beverages like sparkling water dry our mouths and throat. A dry mouth help food particles and bacteria to hang around longer than they should, potentially leading to tonsil stones.
Some medical professionals also believe that sparkling water may contribute to tonsil inflammation for some people.
Best and Worst Drinks for Fresh Breath
No one likes bad breath, so let’s find something to drink that will keep your mouth happy and healthy. Beverages like sparkling water don’t always cause bad breath, but they may increase the likelihood for some people.
Beverages That Promote Good Breath
The drinks you consume contribute to the way your breath smells more than you may think. A dentist will always recommend water as your first choice for oral hygiene, but there are other options available.
- Water – The best option for fresh breath, water washes away bacteria and food particles and contributes to the production of saliva
- Black tea – Contains plant-based compounds called polyphenols that can help keep your breath fresh
- Green tea – Also contains polyphenols, specifically catechin, an antioxidant that can help fight bacteria
Beverages That May Cause Bad Breath
Any beverage that contributes to dry mouth can be the cause of bad breath. This includes drinks that contain caffeine, alcohol, or significant acidity. Additionally, certain foods contain ingredients that are odorous themselves.
If you’re looking to avoid bad breath, you may want to limit your intake of the following beverages:
- Coffee – acidic
- Beer, wine, liquor – alcoholic
- Milk – reacts with volatile sulfur compounds in your mouth
- Soda – acidic
- Juice – acidic
- Sparkling water – acidic
How to Improve Bad Breath
Whether you suffer from bad breath as a result of the beverages you drink or some other cause, there are several things you can do to improve it. Maintaining good oral hygiene is the best way to keep your breath smelling fresh.
- Brush your teeth each morning, night, and after eating
- Floss at least once per day to remove food particle and plaque buildup
- Brush your tongue to remove odorous bacteria
- Visit your dentist for regular cleanings
- Replace your toothbrush regularly
- Use a fluoride mouthwash
- Avoid dry mouth by drinking plenty of water
- Thoroughly clean braces, retainers, or dentures
Sparkling Water May Contribute to Bad Breath
The truth is that sparkling water is unlikely to be the sole cause of bad breath. Typically, poor oral hygiene, dehydration, or other health factors are to blame. However, since sparkling water is acidic, it may further dry out your mouth and contribute to worsened breath.
If you drink several sparkling waters daily and experience bad breath, it may be a good idea to cut back — and always drink regular water as well. Bad breath can be a symptom of other oral health problems, so be sure to visit your dentist regularly.