In an attempt to optimize health, some people are giving up water from municipal supplies and even popular bottled water in favor of what they are calling “raw water.” Raw water is unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized–and captured as close as possible to its source. Some people claim that it offers major health benefits. Others, however, are concerned that it could result in serious health harms, including serious illness and even death.

As a holistic dentistry practice, we understand that what enters your body may be the most important influence on your overall and oral health. That’s why we can sympathize with the raw water movement, but there are some concerns that you have to take into account when considering changing your water source.

Is Raw Water Safe for your Teeth?

High Acidity

Acidity matters whenever you’re eating or drinking. It matters more when we consider the beverage you’re going to be drinking most of the day. Our teeth are strong against trauma and wear, but weak when it comes to acids. Any beverage with a pH lower than 5.5 will dissolve tooth enamel to some degree. How much it dissolves your enamel depends on the actual pH and how much of it you’re drinking.

Water that naturally falls as rain is around pH 5.5 thanks to the carbon dioxide that gets dissolved in it through the atmosphere. However, it can become more acidic once it enters the ground and is exposed to acidic minerals. Groundwater can often have a pH as low as 4, which isn’t as erosive as soda or wine, but is more erosive than coffee or tea.

Staining Minerals

Minerals dissolved in groundwater are supposed to provide a major part of the health benefit, but they can also be part of the danger. Arsenic and, though less common, mercury in groundwater is a serious danger, but other minerals can cause a more cosmetic problem. Minerals like iron dissolved in raw water can stain your teeth or get incorporated into the tartar on your teeth. If you notice discoloration of your teeth over time or an increased rate of tartar accumulation, it might be time to reconsider your raw water.

High Fluoride

People often say that they’re switching to raw water to avoid fluoride, which is added to the water in many municipal water systems, and which has only recently been added to San Jose’s water. However, there is the risk of high fluoride levels in natural water.

While municipal water has its fluoride controlled, many groundwater sources can have levels five times higher than municipal water. And that represents a serious health risk, causing developmental issues including cognitive problems and fluorosis of the teeth, which can cause brown or black staining to be incorporated into the tooth enamel.

How to Get Raw Water That’s Safe

There are certainly more risks with raw water than with municipal water, but if you are convinced of its benefits, you should do what you can to reduce risks and maximize benefits. Here are some tips that can help you stay safe while enjoying the benefits of raw water.

Get It from a Source You Trust

With municipal water and other foods, there is a process that you can rely on to for quality control. Good or not, it tends to be consistent. But with raw water, there is more uncertainty. Instead, you need to rely on the source itself. Some companies have shown that they are able to provide raw water that seems reasonably safe. Rather than harvesting the water yourself, this is a good option to get started with raw water.

Have Somebody Show You Their Source

Do you know someone who is getting their raw water from a safe, healthy source? Ask them if they will share. Be prepared for them to turn you down–many people are very protective of their water sources.

And, of course, make sure the person really knows how to find a good water source and can verify that their source is safe.

Respect Private Property

Some people involved in the movement have noted that they have to sneak to their water source because it’s on or past private property. But remember that going onto private property is trespassing and taking someone else’s water is theft. As repeated droughts in California have taught us, water is precious, and the water you take might be meant for someone else’s consumption, crops, or livestock. Even if you think it’s not being used, it may be vital to the local ecosystem.

Get Your Water Tested

You don’t really know what’s in raw water until you have it tested. This is a good idea even if you’re buying the water or getting it from a friend that you trust. It may look, smell, and taste clean, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. No matter where it comes from, if it’s truly raw water, there’s no guarantee of safety. So getting it tested gives you a snapshot of what the water was like at one time. Get the water tested again if it is a different color, taste, or smell than usual.

Consume It Quickly

Raw water is a live product. It has a very short shelf life. Microorganisms in the water will multiply, and in the confines of a jug or bottle, this can cause water that started as safe to become toxic. So don’t let it go bad.

Let Us Help You Stay Healthy

At Top Down Dental, our Top Down approach means that we’re concerned about more than just the health of your teeth and gums. We want to make sure that you stay healthy. So we can help you make important decisions about your health, such as raw water and other concerns.

To talk to a San Jose dentist about this or other health issues, please call (408) 354-5600 today for an appointment with Dr. Nancy Nehawandian at Top Down Dental in Los Gatos.