Lots of kids think that sports drinks and energy drinks have health benefits that make them better to consume than soda. Not so, especially for your teeth, according to a new report published in the most recent issue of General Dentistry. "Patients are shocked to learn that these drinks are essentially bathing their teeth with acid," says Poonam Jain, BDS, MS, MPH, lead author of the study, in a press release. They also found that energy drinks including popular brands such as Red Bull and Rockstar, cause twice as much damage to the teeth as sports drinks.
After only five days of regular exposure, the high levels of acid in these beverages erode tooth enamel, the glossy outer layer of the tooth and start causing irreversible harm. Without the protection of enamel, teeth become sensitive, more likely to get cavities, and more prone to decay. "Teens regularly come into my office with these types of symptoms, but they don't know why," says Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) spokesperson Jennifer Bone, DDS, MAGD. "They don't realize that something as seemingly harmless as a sports or energy drink can do a lot of damage to their teeth."
According to the study, as many as 50% of American teens drink at least one energy drink a day and more than 60% regularly consume sports drinks. The authors hope to educate parents and kids about the potential health risks associated with their use. Sports drinks are often a hidden source of sugar in kid's diets, which can lead to chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart problems. In addition to sugar, energy drinks also contain high levels of caffeine and herbs and other substances that are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
The study recommends that people minimize their consumption these beverages. If you do consume a sports or energy drink, Dr. Bone recommends rinsing the mouth with water or chewing sugar-free gum afterward. "Both tactics increase saliva flow, which naturally helps to return the acidity levels in the mouth to normal.
What you don't want to do is brush your teeth immediately after finishing a sports or energy drink. This can spread the acid over the surface of the teeth and increase the erosion.