You’re a fit and active person, and you try to do whatever you can to safeguard your health. This includes taking care of your teeth, and you’re proud of your diligent brushing and flossing regimen. Yet there’s another habit you might have that seems like the right thing to do, yet may in actuality be doing more harm than good. What could this possibly be?
For most people it would come as a surprise to hear that the culprit is none other than energy or sports drinks. Yes, those drinks that you chug down to fend off dehydration during exercise, and to keep your electrolytes in balance. In fact, many people wouldn’t be without an energy drink on a hot summer day, and they often feel virtuous for turning to a beverage that they think is better for you than a soft drink. These same people would be shocked to find out that in many cases, energy drinks can be even worse for your teeth than the typical soft drink or cola!
How can this be? Well, according to a study in the journal Dentistry, teeth soaked in energy drinks for 14 days in an experiment fared worse than teeth soaked in fitness water, soft drinks, and other beverages, due to the high acidity levels found in energy drinks. Those high levels of acid can destroy tooth enamel, even more so than soft drinks can. That breakdown in enamel makes it easier for cavities to form, leading to potentially even bigger problems down the road, such as the need for root canals or extractions.
It is in fact the acidity of drinks that matters most, as these acids alter the pH level in the mouth. This pH level is a standard way to measure the acidity of a substance. A neutral pH level is 6.5 to 7.5, or that found in human saliva. Bacteria proliferate when the pH level falls below 5.5, to an acidic level.
In this study, drinks that caused the most enamel to dissolve included KMX sports drink, Snapple lemonade, Red Bull, Gatorade lemon-lime, and Powerade Arctic Shatter. Coke was on the list as well, but the difference between KMX and Coke was illuminating, in that KMX caused tooth-enamel dissolution that measured as 30 mg/cm-squared, compared to 3 mg/cm-squared for Coke.
Another problem with sports and energy drinks revolves around the way in which people drink them. Rather than drinking them all at once with a meal, they tend to sip them continuously, either on a hot day or during some form of exercise. This continual drinking over a span of hours is much more apt to cause tooth damage.
One way to prevent damage caused to teeth even if drinking sports or energy drinks is to chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow, which will help regulate the pH level in your mouth. Another way is to make sure you rinse your mouth out with water in between sips of a soft drink, and to make sure you brush your teeth shortly after drinking any kind of sugary beverage.