What are sports drinks really doing to your teeth?

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General Dental Care
BDSc (Qld), Grad.Dip.Dent (Qld)

why-sports-drinks-put-your-teeth-at-riskIt is a common misconception that energy drinks and sports drinks are “healthier” than soft drinks for our overall health.

Sugar has a bad reputation (with good reason) when it comes to helping contribute to dental decay; however, what we seem to miss is the high acid content present in these drinks that can be causing irreversible damage to those (not so) pearly whites.

What kind of damage do sports drinks cause?

You may be consuming these drinks assuming that they will help improve sports performance and energy levels, but in doing so, you are essentially bathing your teeth in acid.

A recent study from the Academy of General Dentistry found that sports drinks contain so much acid that they start destroying teeth after only five days of consistent use.

Every time we sip on our sports drink we are feeding not only ourselves but also the bacteria present in our mouth. Bacteria tends to feed off sugar and produce acid – which in turn lowers the pH in our mouth and our saliva. As our oral environment becomes more acidic, the minerals in our teeth that help keep them strong begin to dissolve, which can accurately be described as an acid attack.

By incorporating a high acid load in a drink you are essentially cutting out the middleman (being sugar) on the way to tooth decay. Whenever you take a sip throughout the day, you’ll start a brand new acid attack that will last around 20 minutes. These consecutive acid attacks over time will start causing damage to our enamel, which can cause teeth to become sensitive to touch and temperature changes, and in turn be more susceptible to cavities and decay in the future.

What can you do?

Here are some tips that can help reduce damage, keeping your teeth pearly white and healthy:

  • Drink sports drinks and energy drinks in moderation, if at all
  • Use a straw so your teeth are less exposed to the sugar and acid in the drinks
  • Take a drink of water, preferably tap water that has been fluoridated, after a sugary or acidic drink to help dilute the sugars and balance the pH in the oral environment. Also think about a sugar-free chewing gum to help stimulate saliva flow 
  • Protect your teeth by using fluoridated toothpaste. And make sure you brush and floss regularly – at least twice a day
  • Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after consuming acidic drinks, the enamel is softer after an acid attack and brushing can remove small amounts of this softened enamel. Leave it for at least an hour before brushing
  • Avoid sipping sugary or acidic drinks for a long duration of time. Doing so exposes your teeth to acid and sugar for longer. And also avoid them just before you go to bed
  • Drink water instead! It has no acid, no sugar and better yet no kilojoules.

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