The Down Side to Sports Drinks

September 20, 2018


With school sports starting to ramp up, the more we start seeing teenagers with sports drinks. Many sports drinks contain electrolytes, which can be helpful to maintain energy levels when engaging in physically intensive activities. They are also seen as a tasty alternative to water when it comes to staying hydrated on a warm summer day. But what people don’t realize is that sports drinks also bring negative effects to your teeth. Sports drinks can have a negative effect on both children and adults if the people who enjoy them are not careful.

Dental erosion is a loss of mineral in the teeth from external sources like soft drinks, particularly carbonated sodas and sports drinks, appear to be the most significant cause of erosion.  If our teeth are consistently in contact with acidic substances, the remineralization process that repairs our teeth cannot keep up with the demineralization. Because enamel cannot be regrown after it is damaged, the effects are irreparable. When the enamel on a tooth becomes damaged, that tooth becomes sensitive both to the touch and to extreme cases of hot and cold temperatures. This will be most obviously noticeable while the teenager is eating or drinking. Once the enamel is damaged, the teeth in question also become more susceptible to cavities and to decay in general.

It has been found that most sports drinks are quite acidic with a pH level well below the critical pH of 5.5. See Figure A below for the pH of several popular sport and energy drinks.

Product pH
1. Monster Assault: 3.49
2. Red Bull: 3.37
3. Gatorade Fruit Punch: 3.27
4. Propel Mango: 3.23
5. Gatorade Lemon-Lime: 3.07
6. Full Throttle Energy Drink: 2.94
7. Gatorade Cool Blue: 2.92
8. 5-Hour Energy: 2.81
9. Powerade Red: 2.77
10. Rockstar: 2.53

Cavity causing bacteria live on the sugars we consume. That bacteria can sneak into the cracks of your tooth enamel (that have softened because of all that sugar) and cause tooth decay
. Untreated tooth decay can lead to cavities, gum disease or even periodontal disease.

These drinks were originally intended for athletes engaging in prolonged physical activity, in which case the sugar may not be as much of a concern. In reality though, the average consumer is not an athlete and may be receiving too much sugar and even sodium than is recommended. If your kids are engaging in highly active sports, encourage them to drink water along with their preferred sports drink. At the end of the day, water is the most natural and healthy hydrating drink that supports your muscles, nerves, and every other system in your body. Plus, water is great for your oral health, too.

Water will help to balance the pH of the oral cavity, and help to decrease the likelihood of developing cavities.

Cavities on the teeth of a young child.

The next time you reach for one of these beverages we encourage you to read the label and be sure it’s providing you with what you really need. If you have any doubts, choose water! We hope you all have a great school year and good luck to all the kiddos participating in local sports!










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