Water by far is the healthiest and cheapest drink available. Two-third of our body i.e., almost 60% is made up of water. The right amount of hydration helps to maintain optimum health, distributes vital nutrients to the entire body, aids in proper food digestion, gets rid of waste from the body, and gives the skin its natural glow. Good hydration is equally important for oral health too. Daily consumption of 7-8 glasses of water keeps the general health and oral health at par. A well hydrated oral cavity prevents dryness of mouth and which in turn puts a halt to host of dental problems like tooth decay, gum problems, mouth ulcers etc.
What are the different qualities of water and what effect does it have on oral health?
Let’s start with tap water
Tap water that we all receive at our home contains many essential minerals like calcium, magnesium and the most precious mineral, ‘fluoride’. Fluoride is popularly known as ‘nature’s cavity fighter’. Dental caries is one of the major public oral health concerns of many developed and developing countries. Fluoridated tap water helps to reduce the occurrence of dental caries to great extent and also helps to remineralize the early carious lesions. According to American Dental Association (ADA) the ideal fluoride level in drinking water has to be 0.7-1.2mg/L for optimum dental health.
Many epidemiological studies conducted have reported that fluoridated drinking water prevents dental cavities and improves oral health to great extent. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking fluoridated tap water reduced the occurrence of dental cavities by a whooping 25% in both adults and children. That’s the reason many health organizations like WHO, ADA endorse drinking fluoridated water.
Is bottled water good for your teeth?
In the last few years, there has been a paradigm shift in drinking water from tap water to bottled water in the Indian population. According to ‘Packaged drinking water association’, the sale of bottled water in India has risen to 6 million liters per day from 4 million liters per day in 2010. That’s huge! The increased commercial sale also calls for the quality check and fluoride concentration of such bottled water. Apparently, different brands of packaged water in India have variable fluoride concentrations. Studies have shown that most of the branded packaged water contained more than 0.5ppm of fluoride concentration but less than 0.6ppm which is the standard specification for drinking water in India. Also, most of the packaged water of different brands in India do not correctly label the appropriate fluoride concentration of the water.
Excess of fluoride concentration in drinking water can lead to a condition called dental fluorosis whereas low levels of fluoride can be a reason for increased occurrence of tooth decay. Thus, bottled waters are excellent source of hygienic drinking water especially in urban India but lacks the essential mineral fluoride.
Alternative methods to get fluoride benefits
Some people may be completely helpless about the fluoride in the drinking water and may have to bear the consequences of the same. what one can do is opt for a professional fluoride treatment done by dentists in a dental clinic. It typically takes only few minutes and is applied in the form of gel, foam, varnish or a rinse. Depending on the patient’s requirement, Dentist may recommend a fluoride treatment anywhere between 6-12 months.
Is hard water bad for oral health?
So, hard water is nothing but water with high mineral content. Hard water has excess of calcium, magnesium and to a lesser extent iron. We all know the potential benefits of calcium for strong teeth. Calcium helps to remineralize the teeth. Drinking hard water increases the calcium and magnesium content in saliva. As a result, the teeth which are constantly bathing in this calcium and magnesium rich saliva deposit the content to the teeth making them even more strong.
There is no direct evidence that the hard water causing teeth staining or being abrasive to teeth. The iron content can cause a brownish discoloration, but it is negligible and does not cause massive staining of teeth.
Though, drinking hard water strengthens the teeth making them less prone to tooth decay but may increase the chances of tartar deposits on teeth. Maintaining a good oral hygiene practice can definitely keep the gum problems away. People residing in areas supplied with hard water can consider professional dental cleaning every 6-12 months. Thus, it is safe to drink hard water from a dental point of view but a regular dental checkup to assess if any early dental problems can be equally beneficial.
How to protect your teeth from chlorinated water?
Swimming is considered one of the best recreational activities or sport. But little is known about the quality of swimming pool water. Chemicals like chlorine are used to treat the pool water to keep it germ-free. But the chlorinated water does negatively impact oral health, both in professional as well as recreational swimmers.
Teeth staining is a very common finding in swimmers also known as ‘swimmer’s mouth’. The chemicals used to treat the pool water causes the breakdown of salivary proteins in the mouth which exacerbates the staining process. Swimmers have these typical brownish-yellowish stains on their teeth due to the chlorinated water. According to the data, these effects are seen within 27days if the pool water is not maintained properly.
Another, common dental finding due to chlorinated water found in swimmers is dental erosion. Most of the gas chlorinated swimming pool water is acidic in nature. Daily exposure to such acidic water results in enamel loss since tooth structure starts to dissolve in an acidic environment. And this enamel loss is nothing but dental erosion. According to research, 15% of daily swimmers showed erosion of teeth as compared to 3% of infrequent swimmers.
Strategies to maintain oral health
- Thorough rinsing of mouth with plain water after exposure to pool water is very essential to remove the excess of chlorinated water.
- Certain breathing exercises to keep the mouth closed in swimmers can be helpful to prevent contact of teeth and chlorinated water.
- Seeking regular professional help can reduce the chances of many potential dental problems.
- Without access to a good quality water many developed and developing countries have shown population with poor oral health.
- Studies have reported early dental problems in children with poor access to high quality and safe drinking water.
- Fluoridated tap water prevents the occurrence of dental cavities.
- Drinking poor quality water which is highly acidic and has high levels of manganese leads to host of dental problems.
- Urban population exposed to excess bottled water should consider regular dental checkups and if required fluoride treatments to prevent dental problems.