Is Your Favorite Prebiotic Soda Ruining Your Teeth? Experts Weigh In

Prebiotic sodas claim to have many health benefits, but are they safe for your teeth? Here's what experts have to say.

Michelle Honeyager Contributor
Michelle is a contributor for CNET.
Michelle Honeyager
4 min read
Canned soda with lemons and ice.
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Health soda may seem like it combines the best of both worlds. With probiotic and prebiotic sodas, you get the fizzy tanginess of a soda with the health benefits of fiber or beneficial bacteria. Soda is still soda, regardless of the manufacturers' health additions. There could be added sugars and even acidic ingredients that may damage teeth. 

Just how bad are probiotic sodas for your teeth? We interviewed experts to see how damaging probiotic drinks can be to your dental health. Here's what to know.      

What are prebiotic drinks?

Probiotics are living bacteria that you can consume, which are safe and help balance gut bacteria, according to Hartford Hospital. You may also see the word prebiotic thrown around in the world of healthy sodas. Prebiotics act as food for good bacteria and come in the form of fiber. The type of fiber commonly used in prebiotic sodas is called inulin.  

Kombucha Tea or iced tea beverage
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You can find many prebiotic and probiotic sodas on the market. Poppi is a popular prebiotic soda that delivers fiber in the form of inulin. Olipop is another brand with added fiber that packs the signature delightful fizz. Culture POP is a live probiotic variety, and Spare Food Probiotic Sparkling Tonics delivers probiotics from whey. You may also see kombucha drinks listed under probiotic drink headers. This is a fermented probiotic drink that has a tang to it.  

The link between probiotic drinks and dental health

These drinks often come in tantalizing flavors, like berry, lemon, lime, vanilla and ginger combinations. How they achieve these flavors can depend on the brand. Some have added sugar and use alternative sweeteners like stevia. 

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Other healthy sodas use fruit juices, including highly acidic components like lime juice. Some even use organic spices. Even acetic acid in kombucha gives it a lower pH and its signature tanginess.              

With all the added sugars and acidic components, are probiotic drinks good for your teeth? VIP Smiles Family Dentistry outlines how traditional sodas can be bad for teeth due to acidic content and sugars, which can soften enamel, the proactive outer cover of the tooth that prevents cavities. Enamel does not grow back, so it's important to protect it.    

According to VIP Smiles Family Dentistry, healthy sodas often have apple cider vinegar and citric acid, which are acidic enough to erode the enamel of your teeth. While carbonation is not a massive factor in dental health risks, any added sugars in both traditional sodas and health soda brands can also damage enamel or cause cavities.  

What experts have to say about probiotic drinks

Dr. Zev Schulhof from Iconic Implants gave a rundown on how prebiotic and probiotic drinks affect dental health and how to mitigate any risks:

"Most sodas aren't great for your dental health. Their high acidity and sugar levels can wreak havoc on your teeth enamel, leading to erosion and decay." Schulhof added that prebiotic and probiotic sodas oftentimes have lower acidity and sugar levels, so they aren't as damaging to your tooth enamel as traditional sodas. "They still aren't entirely un-harmful though -- they just aren't as bad. There may also be ingredients unique to these drinks that are damaging to teeth enamel, for example, Poppi drinks have apple cider vinegar in them, which is an ingredient that's highly acidic and bad for the teeth," said Schulholf.

Schulhof recommends drinking any type of soda and acidic drinks with a straw to mitigate the damage these drinks can cause to your tooth enamel. "Also, it is a great idea to rinse out your mouth with water after having these kinds of drinks, or even better if you can brush your teeth or use mouthwash," he added.

Dentist checking patient's teeth.
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General Dentist Dr. David Chen gives some further good news about probiotic drinks.

"Despite the grim news above, the actual probiotics and prebiotics within the drinks can be helpful for oral health. There has been some research indicating that taking probiotics can potentially improve periodontal health," said Chen.

"Overall, I would say that these probiotic and prebiotic sodas are healthier than typical sugary sodas, but plain water is still the best. As long as you drink them in moderation, they are a better alternative for sugary sodas. However, if you drink an excessive amount of them, you'd erode any benefits that it may have had to begin with," Chen added.

Balancing the benefits and risks of probiotic drinks

The reality of these healthy sodas is that they're a complete mixed bag. You'll get the gut-boosting benefits of probiotics and prebiotics. That generally isn't a false claim or a scam. Hartford Hospital states that these types of drinks are safe to consume for most people. The fiber might cause gastrointestinal upset if it's in high enough doses or if someone has irritable bowel syndrome.        

You have to weigh the gut health benefits against the risk to your dental health. If you want to get the best of both worlds, you could try consuming these beverages using some additional tips from the American Dental Association

  • Do not swish or hold the beverage in your mouth; swallow immediately.
  • Dairy can neutralize acids, so drink milk or eat cheese after consuming these drinks.   
  • Brush an hour or more after you consume acidic foods so that your saliva can wash away acids and your enamel can re-harden a bit. 
Woman brushing her teeth.
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Too long; didn't read? 

Probiotic and prebiotic drinks can be a legitimate way to get those gut-boosting components in your diet. These types of drinks have added fiber and good bacteria for your gut. Various brands even come in appealing flavors like strawberry vanilla or wild berries and lime. With those fun flavors may come added sugars or acidic properties. Sugars and acids can erode tooth enamel and cause cavities. To ensure you are consuming these drinks more safely, limit how many you drink, use a straw or rinse your mouth out afterward.  

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.