The popularity of seltzer water with a hint of fruity essence is exploding. The latest numbers show 168 million gallons were sold in the U.S. in 2015, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation.
When Peter Shankman wanted to lose weight, he pumped up the exercise 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," Shankman said. "I'd get full. It had no calories, and it had no artificial anything."
He lost the weight but still drinks it a lot.
"On a typical day, I probably go through two to three liters of seltzer," Shankman said.
Seltzer is merely carbonated water, but when flavored, essences of acidic fruit like lemon, lime, raspberry and cherry are added.
"What we're seeing as dentists is a corresponding increase in erosion of teeth," Dr. Hewlett said.
The acids can eventually eat away at the enamel, as with all acidic drinks. There are no hard numbers in terms of cases linked to seltzer, but research shows the risk is real.
"In moderate consumption, it's not a big deal," Dr. Hewlett said. He says the risk is with frequent exposure, and how you drink matters, too.
Chugging is better than sipping because sipping allows acid to stay on your teeth longer. But, the worst thing you can do is something called swilling.
"So, swilling a beverage, keeping it in the mouth, flushing it around, it's like giving your teeth an acid Jacuzzi," Dr. Hewlett said.
To lower risk, experts say to drink regular water in between as a rinse, and occasionally mix a little baking soda in water to help neutralize acids. Also, 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. As for the tip often bantered about that drinking with a straw is better because the drink bypasses your teeth, Dr. Hewlett says there isn't scientific evidence to back that up, but it couldn't hurt.