To B(ottl)e or not to B(ottl)e

There is often a debate in the office regarding bottled water and tap water.  Some unnamed parties try to tout the importance of fluoride in tap water while stating all water tastes the same.  Other, also unnamed parties state the poor taste is simply too much to overcome.

Quick aside:  There are a few times and places in history I wish I could have been and wish I could re-live.

  1. Go back and re-live the Hurricanes 2006 historic run to the Stanley Cup-thanks Rod, Eric, Cam but mostly Turk!.
  2. Go back 65 million years and check out the dinosaurs with my four-year-old, win some cool Dad points with him.
  3. Be in that boardroom when somebody first had the following excellent idea.

Joe:   Let’s take something essentially free like water and charge people an outrageous price for it, like $2 for twenty ounces of water.

Jane: That is ridiculous, people complain about paying $2 for a GALLON of gas.  People are smarter than that.

Joe:  You mean the same people that watch the Kardashians walk around their mansion complaining about their life?

Jane:  Brilliant!


What does this have to do with dentistry?

(Disclaimer: For the sake of this article let’s assume that Fluoride prevents tooth decay and will not kill you.  If you feel differently that is wonderful and that is what America is all about.  What you really need to be worried about is Dihydrogen Monoxide, yikes, dangerous stuff there!  I would encourage you not to continue with this article and spend your time elsewhere for now.)

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted with the legalese, with the great increase in the consumption of bottled water versus tap water there is a decrease in the overall consumption of Fluoride leading to an increase in tooth decay.  Since we all agree, all of us left anyway, that Fluoride helps

strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay let’s see if we can at least decrease plastic bottle usage and increase the consumption of that high-quality H2O coming out of your tap.


I quickly found out comparing bottled water to tap water is a frightening foxhole that I was lucky to escape alive.  Bottled water comes in two distinct types of categories, purified drinking water and natural spring water.  Purified drinking water, which is simply a municipal water supply that has been treated to remove chlorine and other dissolved solids, including fluoride.  The three processes typically used for “treating” the municipal water supply is deionization, distillation and reverse osmosis.  I won’t go into each process so yes apparently there are even things too nerdy for me!  Natural spring water is defined as water that comes from an underground formation and must flow naturally to the earth’s surface or through a borehole deemed sanitary (actual definition, unreal I know).  With this process, there is less consistency in the taste.  It is believed that consumers prefer the more consistent taste that accompanies the purification process with reverse osmosis being the least expensive and providing the most consistent taste.  Never thought you would be so interested in information about bottled water.  Prepare to be even MORE interested in information regarding fluoride in bottled water and tap water.  The average amount of fluoride in bottled water is .11 parts per million.  You can find this number by going to the over 10,000 fluoride hating websites and taking an average of all the different numbers they provide with their “data”.  Now the recommended fluoride content in tap water in the United States is between .7-and 1.2 parts per million.  By drinking bottled water you are getting ten times less fluoride than is recommended.  Why don’t people drink tap water?  It tastes awful.  What about when you put one of those Brita carbon filters on the faucet which doesn’t remove any of the fluoride?  Dr. Farrell are you crazy?  It still tastes awful compared to bottled water!  This was the rhetoric I had been hearing for years from the greatest wife and staff in the world.  Always willing to be proven wrong (or right) what did I do?

Being the scientist at heart the parameters were as follows:

  1. Take 5 different brands of bottled water, unfiltered tap water (and place in a bottle) and filtered tap water (and place in a bottle)
  2. Put all seven bottles in the refrigerator overnight to ensure all water was the same temperature
  3. Place water from each bottled water brand (Voss, SmartWater, Aquafina, Dasani, and Nestle-high end brands to low-end brands) and the two types of tap water (filtered and unfiltered) in 7 separate 4-ounce cups
  4. Participants then were given each cup in random order and instructed to rate the test from 1-100. Participants were allowed to resample cups and adjust score accordingly after finishing all 7 samples.


I think we can all agree that Voss, Aquafina, and Dasani are all pretty much rated the same.  Next, we have Smart Water barely beating out unfiltered tap water and Nestle actually grading worse than tap water. Before we move on let me provide a definition for you….

Outlier-a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set.

In other words, filtered tap water FAR AND AWAY was the most preferred tasting water.  Lest we not forget this is coming from the upper echelon of bottled water snobs.  At an overall score of 68, it blew the competition away.  It received the top three scores being, 80, 80 and 90.  It was also the most preferred or tied for most preferred by 80% of the subjects.

This is quite the surprising find,  I wonder how price plays a factor in this?

I am glad you asked………


In order to accurately compare the prices of water, you have to purchase them in the same place in the same quantity at the same temperature.  Not all grocery stores have the five brands of bottled water in the same quantity, the bigger the bottle(s) the cheaper it was.  We also found that some grocery stores charge significantly more for bottled water kept in a refrigerator which is understandable, but they usually are by the checkout and you decide to buy a cold bottle of water last minute for 2-3x what it costs less than 50 feet away.  Having cleared that up, I don’t proclaim to say these prices are anywhere near the cheapest you can get a bottle of water, however, I feel the easiest/fairest comparison between the brands is by purchasing a 24 pack of 16.9oz (16.9oz is equal to ½ liter of water)bottles of water from Amazon.  It was the only place we could find our five brands being sold in that quantity.  For the filtered tap water, one Brita faucet filter costs $19 and provides 100 gallons of water (or $19/757 half-liters–> 2.5 cents).  For the unfiltered tap water according to my water bill, I paid $32.35 for 2200 gallons (or  $32.35/16,655 half-liters–> 2 tenths of a penny ).

Not only does it taste better, it is exponentially cheaper and drinking tap water will provide you with the necessary fluoride to help prevent dental decay.  Simply take the 10 seconds necessary to fill up a water bottle instead of buying a new one.






4 thoughts on “To B(ottl)e or not to B(ottl)e

  1. Great information as expected, Dr. Farrell! I hate plastic bottles and bags and always try to avoid them. My tap water tastes fine to me; is there any other reason to get a filter?

  2. Informative – and as always, just plain funny. I hope you never leave dentistry, but if you do, you have a career as a writer ahead of you.

  3. The water info is interesting, but I am completely entranced by the baby in the clip. What in the world was he thinking and communicating?!

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