Sports, energy drinks and your smile: We are often asked which sports and energy drinks are less harmful for teeth and as it is National Nutrition Month, we thought we would revisit this question. You might not like our answers! While they may sound refreshing after a hard workout, the high levels of sugar and caffeine found in many sports and energy drinks can cause damage your tooth enamel, increasing your risk of tooth decay.
According to a study in the American Journal of Dentistry, teeth soaked in energy drinks for 14 days fared worse than teeth soaked in fitness water, soft drinks and other beverages, due to the high acidity levels found in the energy drinks. Those high levels of acid destroy tooth enamel, even more so than soft drinks do. The resulting 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. Once eroded, tooth enamel can’t regrow.
Even one energy drink a day can be potentially harmful, but if you are absolutely unable to replace that sports- or energy-drink with water, we encourage you to minimize your consumption and use a drinking straw to try and keep the liquid off your teeth. Thinking of staying with the sports and energy drinks and then just brushing your teeth immediately afterwards? As odd as it may sound coming from us, this is the one instance when brushing is NOT such a great idea. The acid in the drink would have softened the enamel on your teeth making it easier to damage, even when brushing. It takes approximately 30 minutes for the pH level in your mouth to return to normal. A pH level is the standard way to measure the acidity of a substance. A neutral pH level is 6.5 to 7.5, or that is found in human saliva. Bacteria proliferate when the pH level falls below 5.5, to an acidic level. 5.5 is the level at which tooth enamel starts to dissolve. We recommend rinsing your mouth out with water immediately after drinking – this helps both to neutralize the acid and to increase the production of saliva. You could also chew sugar free gum to stimulate your saliva. We recommend that you wait about an hour after drinking a sports or energy drink in order to limit damage to the enamel, before brushing to remove any sugar remaining on your teeth and gums.
There are many sports drinks, energy drinks, and flavored waters out there today, so take the time to read the labels. Recent studies found the worst energy drinks in regards to their acidity levels were:
Red Bull Sugar free
KMX sports drink
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.
The energy drinks tested showed more than a two fold increase in the destruction of tooth enamel than other sports drinks such as various flavors of Gatorade and Powerade products.
Mountain Dew MDX had the lowest acidity of the energy drinks tested.
Sports and energy drinks are not good for your smile and your overall health in general. Dr. Roos and our team don’t recommend you drink energy drinks at all, and we suggest that you should drink water instead and get your energy from a balanced diet.