The study on sports and energy drinks on dental health found that an alarming increase in the consumption of sports and energy drinks, especially among adolescents, is causing irreversible damage to teeth, specifically, the high acidity levels in the drinks erode tooth enamel, the glossy outer layer of the tooth.
Sports and Energy Drinks cause a One-Two Punch to your Mouth
Energy drinks and sports drinks launch a twofold attack on your teeth: sugar and acid. Drinks like Gatorade and Powerade have about half the sugar of sodas, but popular energy drinks like Monster, Red Bull or Fuel often have the same amount of sugar as soda (or more). In addition, both sports and energy drinks are loaded with acid—enough to do ten times more damage to tooth enamel than soda.
"Young adults consume these (sports and energy drinks) drinks assuming that they will improve their sports performance and energy levels and that they are 'better' for them than soda," says Poonam Jain, BDS, MS, MPH, lead author of the study. "Most of these patients are shocked to learn that these drinks are essentially bathing their teeth with acid."
Sports and Energy Drink Dental Health Study
Researchers examined the acidity levels in 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks. They found that the acidity levels can vary between brands of beverages and flavors of the same brand. To test the effect of the acidity levels, the researchers immersed samples of human tooth enamel in each beverage for 15 minutes, followed by immersion in artificial saliva for two hours. This cycle was repeated four times a day for five days, and the samples were stored in fresh artificial saliva at all other times.
"This type of testing simulates the same exposure that a large proportion of American teens and young adults are subjecting their teeth to on a regular basis when they drink one of these beverages every few hours," says Dr. Jain.
The prolonged consumption of sports drinks may be linked to a condition known as erosive tooth wear, in which acids eat away the tooth's smooth hard enamel coating and trickle into the bonelike material underneath, causing the tooth to soften and weaken. The condition affects one in 15 Americans and can result in severe tooth damage and even tooth loss if left untreated.
The researchers found that damage to enamel was evident after only five days of exposure to sports or energy drinks, although energy drinks showed a significantly greater potential to damage teeth than sports drinks. In fact, the authors found that energy drinks caused twice as much damage to teeth as sports drinks.
With a reported 30 to 50 percent of U.S. teens consuming energy drinks, and as many as 62 percent consuming at least one sports drink per day, it is important to educate parents and young adults about the downside of these drinks. Damage caused to tooth enamel is irreversible, and without the protection of enamel, teeth become overly sensitive, prone to cavities, and more likely to decay.
"Teens regularly come into my office with these types of symptoms, but they don't know why," says AGD spokesperson Jennifer Bone, DDS, MAGD. "We review their diet and snacking habits and then we discuss their consumption of these beverages. They don't realize that something as seemingly harmless as a sports or energy drink can do a lot of damage to their teeth."
Dr. Bone recommends that her patients minimize their intake of sports and energy drinks. She also advises them to chew sugar-free gum or rinse the mouth with water following consumption of the drinks. "Both tactics increase saliva flow, which naturally helps to return the acidity levels in the mouth to normal," she says.
Also, patients should wait at least an hour to brush their teeth after consuming sports and energy drinks. Otherwise, says Dr. Bone, they will be spreading acid onto the tooth surfaces,
Helpful Tips to Prevent Tooth Erosion when Consuming Sports Drinks and Energy Drink
Here are some tips to minimize tooth damage caused by sports and energy drinks:
- Rinse out your mouth with water or chew some sugar-free gum after having sports and energy drinks. Rinsing out your mouth helps rebalances the pH level in your mouth to counteract the acid in the sports and energy drinks.
- Don’t brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after drinking sports and energy drinks. Your enamel is still soft and brushing can damage it even more. Brushing will also spread the acid onto tooth surfaces, increasing the erosive action.
- Drink sports and energy drinks drinks before you get dehydrated, not after. That way, you’ll have the saliva you need to protect your teeth.
- Drink sports and energy drinks all at once. Your mouth takes time to recover after each sip, so drink the entire sports and energy drink in one shot, rather than sipping on it continuously, which prevents teeth from regaining their protection.
- Use an acid-neutralizing remineralizing toothpaste to help re-harden soft enamel.
- Academy of General Dentistry (2012, May 1). Sports and energy drinks responsible for irreversible damage to teeth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 5, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2012/05/120501134319.htm
- New York University (2009, April 3). Sports Drink Consumption Can Cause Tooth Erosion, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 5, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/04/090403122016.htm