Sports drinks can be harmful to your teeth due to their high sugar content and high levels of acidity, according to research presented by the International Association for Dental Research and published in the journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). While most consumers believe that they are drinking something healthy when consuming a sports drink, the truth is that these beverages can be more damaging to teeth than soda.
The high acid content present in most sports drinks is enough to weaken tooth enamel, which makes the teeth more susceptible to bacteria and tooth decay. Weakened, or softened, tooth enamel can also lead to:
- Irreversible enamel damage
- Hypersensitivity (extreme sensitivity to temperature changes or touch)
- Damage to dentin (tissue under the enamel)
- Susceptibility to staining
The sugar contained in most sports drinks worsens the situation by encouraging bacterial growth once it settles on the teeth, sports drinks can be harmful to your teeth by promoting dental cavities.
Test Results on Sports Drinks and Tooth Damage
In a test performed to determine the effect of sports drinks on dental health, researchers placed enamel samples in specific sports beverages for 15-minute intervals four times per day for five days. Upon removal from the sports drink, the samples were placed in artificial saliva for two hours each time to simulate a real-life scenario in which an individual consumed several sports drinks per day.
At the end of the five-day study, the average loss of tooth enamel was 1.5%. Energy drinks (which were also tested) had enamel loss of over 3% after five days.
While the American Beverage Association (ABA) states that four sports drinks per day is above average, research shows that over 60% of teens and more than half of young adults consume at least one sports drink per day. With extensive damage being caused after only five days of prolonged use of sports drinks, these statistics warrant concern in the dental community, thus necessitating giving some helpful guidelines to parents for sports drink consumption.
Preventing Tooth Damage from Sports Drinks
Exposure appears to be an important factor in whether sports drinks can be harmful to your teeth. Drinking a sports beverage all at once is much better for teeth than sipping it leisurely over several hours. Rinsing the mouth with water to cleanse the teeth after drinking a sports drink is also helpful.
Remember, sports drinks were created to replace lost electrolytes after intense physical activity or exercise. Using sports drinks for that purpose alone will help ensure that you or your child are not over-consuming them and exposing the teeth to unnecessary sugars and acid. If your lifestyle is such that you need to frequently replace electrolytes, consider using other available supplements which produce the same result as drinking a sports drink without potentially damaging teeth.
Other tips to reduce damage to teeth from sports drinks include:
- Use a straw for sports drinks to minimize contact with teeth
- Purchase dental-friendly sports drinks (low sugar/low acid)
- Alternate sips of sports drinks with sips of water to rinse mouth
- Do not swish sports drinks around in the mouth, swallow immediately
- Do not rinse mouth guards with sports drinks
- To allow enamel to reharden, do not brush teeth for at least 45 minutes after consuming a sports drink (the softened enamel can be damaged by the abrasiveness of the tooth brush or toothpaste, and saliva will remineralize the teeth)
- Dilute sports drinks with water
- Consume sports drinks cold, as warmer temperatures can speed up erosion
- Drink water after light workouts or activities
- Use chewing gum or candy with xylitol to keep teeth healthy after drinking sports drinks
When thinking about how to prevent dental cavities, moderation is the key when consuming sports drinks with respect to dental health. Research suggests that consuming large quantities of sports drinks is a top contributor to adult tooth decay. Children and teens dental problems have also been linked to drinking sports drinks frequently in situations unrelated to sports.
Drinking a sports drink once in a while after a workout or game is not a serious threat to your teeth; just remember to limit quantity and frequency. If you have dental concerns related to sports drink consumption or are looking for a pediatric dental team for your family, please contact us.
At Kids Dental, we offer comprehensive, family-centered pediatric dental care in a child-friendly nurturing environment. If you are looking for a place to call your dental home, please schedule a consultation with one of our pediatric dentists by completing an Online Appointment Request or calling either office.