If you’re an athlete, you are familiar with the benefits of sports drinks. Proper hydration is so important when exercising or playing sports. These drinks help to increase stamina, stave off that tired feeling, and help you rehydrate. The positive side has been well-documented. However, what you may not know is that there could be a link between sports drinks and tooth erosion.
Most of the time, people think that it’s the sugar in sports drinks that could be the problem—and that is true. But the problem might actually lie in what that sugar does after it gets into your mouth—when it turns into tooth eroding acid. There has been much research conducted on the topic, and the findings have been mixed. However, overall the conclusions have been the same. While orange and fruit juices and soft drinks actually cause more tooth erosion than sports drinks do, the existence of sugar-laden sports rehydration drinks is also the bain of dentists everywhere.
Sports Drinks & Tooth Erosion
While sports drinks don’t carry the highest risk for tooth erosion, there is still a link. There are a few reasons for this:
- Increased need for hydration from sustained physical activity
- Dryness in the mouth, due to heavy mouth breathing from being winded
- Increased sipping—leads to more acid in the mouth
- Increased acidity in the drinks being consumed (e.g. sports drinks)
All of these factors add to the effect of tooth erosion while playing sports or exercising.
The sugar in these drinks increases the pleasant taste, but the higher the acidity, the greater the damage to your teeth. We found this helpful article that outlines the pH values in common drinks. As you can see in the list, many of the energy and sports drinks fall far below the acidity found in fruit juices, and even milk. However, they are still considered acidic and can contribute to tooth erosion and decay.
Sugar to Acid
The rate of consumption of these drinks has increased tremendously over the past several decades. Because of this, the ADA warns against sports drinks that are high in sugar. Just like with potato chips and crackers, your body converts the sugar in these foods and in rehydrating drinks into acid that eats away at your teeth. So when you are selecting a sports drink, make sure you read the label. Choose a drink that is low in sugar. The ADA also has a clever saying that could help you regulate your consumption of drinks and foods that are bad for your teeth: “Snack and sip all day? Risk decay!”
The Key: Balance & Maintenance
There is no denying the hydrating benefits of sports drinks, especially during prolonged and strenuous athletic activity. However, as with most things, balance is key. Make sure you are not consuming in excess, and remember that there is no replacement for water. Your body has to have water to survive, so don’t cut it out completely, in favor of other drinks. It is also essential that you continue to follow your regular dental hygiene routine and keep up with your regular visits to the dentist office. If you aren’t able to brush your teeth right away after consuming a sports drink, at least rinse your mouth with water and possibly chew some sugarless gum to help protect your teeth. The longer you let that sugar sit in your mouth, the more at-risk your teeth are. Do your best to protect them, while you maintain a healthy athletic lifestyle.