Sports and energy drinks are becoming increasingly popular with teens, and dentists are becoming concerned about the lasting impact that this trend may have on oral health.
According to a study from the University of Iowa, sports drinks are even more corrosive to teeth than colas and energy drinks. Researchers found that the high sugar content and acids in sports drinks can damage tooth enamel and the roots of teeth.
In the study, teeth were continuously exposed to sports drinks, colas, diet colas, energy drinks and apple juice for over 25 hours. Sports drinks were found to be the most corrosive to both enamel and the roots of teeth. Cola and energy drinks were the next most corrosive, followed by diet cola and apple juice.
Another study from the University of Birmingham found that athletes' dry mouths limited the ability of saliva -- which normally protects teeth by rinsing away acids and debris -- to neutralize the effects of sports drinks. The researchers also said that it would be possible to develop sports drinks that did not harm teeth if enamel-protecting additives were used.
The good news is that if you are only using sports drinks to stay hydrated during athletic events, you probably don't have too much to worry about. An Ohio State University study of 304 athletes found that there was no correlation between tooth erosion and sports drink consumption.
Researchers from the Gatorade® Sports Science Institute have said that sports drinks hydrate and stimulate tooth-protecting saliva flow during athletics, but you should avoid sipping them throughout the day since this will prolong teeth's contact with harmful sugar and acid.
If you want to go further to neutralize the effect of sports drinks on your teeth, try alternating sips of water with the drinks to prevent sugars and acids from sticking to teeth. Having an oral hygiene routine that includes regular brushing and flossing will also help, but don't run to the bathroom right after downing a sports drink because teeth will be most vulnerable right after consumption and brushing right away could add to the damage.
Another way to prevent harmful sugar and acids from coming in contact with teeth while drinking sports drinks and other possibly harmful beverages is to use a straw to direct the drinks to the back of the throat.
It is a good idea to visit your dentist regularly to address any dental health issues as soon as they arrive. You should also speak with your dentist if you are worried about your consumption of sports drinks or other sugar-rich beverages. If you don't have a dentist, we can help.