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New research published in the May/June 2012 edition of General Dentistry found that tooth enamel is damaged after as little as five days of exposure to sports and energy drinks.
For the study, researchers first analyzed the acidity levels of nine energy drinks and 13 sports drinks. Acidity levels varied significantly between brands and even between flavors within the same brand.
The researchers then soaked tooth enamel samples in each drink for 15 minutes (to simulate a tooth’s exposure while drinking the beverage), and then in artificial saliva for two hours (to simulate the environment inside the mouth after drinking the beverage). This process was repeated four times a day over a five-day period.
Enamel damage was evident after just five days of exposure, or the equivalent of drinking 20 beverages. However, energy drinks caused twice as much enamel damage as sports drinks, on average.
Education and awareness about the potential for irreversible tooth damage related to consumption of sports and energy drinks is especially important among adolescents. A reported 50 to 60 percent of U.S. teens consume at least one energy or sports drink per day!
The study’s lead author was quoted: “Young adults consume these drinks assuming that they will improve their sports performance and energy levels and that they are ‘better’ for them than soda. Most of these patients are shocked to learn that these drinks are essentially bathing their teeth with acid.”
Eroded enamel can lead to tooth sensitivity, and make more teeth more prone to decay.
Protecting Your Teeth
The Academy of General Dentistry recommends that people who drink sports and energy drinks rinse out their mouths with water or chew sugar-free gum immediately after finishing one of these beverages. Both tactics increase saliva flow and help return the mouth’s acidity levels to normal.
Less intuitively, however, they also recommend waiting at least an hour to brush your teeth after consuming these drinks. Brushing too soon will actually increase erosion by spreading acid onto the tooth’s surfaces.
Don’t swap that energy drink for a soda! Recent research has also shown that the citric acid found in soft drinks (both regular and diet) can significantly erode tooth enamel with repeated exposure.
So what are some healthier alternatives?
- Water: For everyday drinking, water is hard to beat. Adding a spritz of lemon or lime and a few drops of stevia can add flavor without much acid or sugar.
- Herbal Tea: Herbal tea is a great alternative if you get tired of drinking water throughout the day. Spicy varieties are warm and soothing during winter months, and fruity flavors are super-refreshing over ice during warmer weather. And there are plenty of natural alternatives if you want to add some sweetness!
- Coconut Water: Coconut water is great for everyday drinking, but is also an amazing option for athletes due to its electrolyte profile! With a significant concentration of potassium, and smaller amounts of calcium, magnesium and sodium, coconut water is great for hydrating during or after a long workout.
- For more great sports and energy drink options (and recipes!), check out our article, 5 Homemade Natural Energy Drinks For Your Workout.
Image Credit: betsyweber/Flickr