Study Finds Energy And Sports Drinks Damage Teeth
May 4, 2012

Study Finds Energy And Sports Drinks Damage Teeth

Connie K. Ho for

A new study in the clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) found that increased consumption of energy and sports drinks leads to irreversible tooth damage. Researchers looked at nine energy drinks and 13 sports drinks. The report, published in the May/June 2012 issue of General Dentistry, explains how the high acidity level in these drinks can erode tooth enamel, which is the outer layer of teeth.

The findings by the research group show that there are different acidity levels in drinks based on brands and flavors.

“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,” remarked leader author Poonam Jain, BDS, MS, MPH, in a prepared statement. “Most of these patients are shocked to learn that these drinks are essentially bathing their teeth with acid.”

In the experiment, researchers placed samples of human tooth enamel in each beverage for 15 minutes and then immersed them in artificial saliva for another two hours. These two steps were repeated four times a day in a five-day period. The group found that damage to enamel started after the fifth day of exposure to the energy or sports drink.

“Bacteria convert sugar to acid, and it´s the acid bath that damages enamel, not the sugar directly,” explained Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Center, in an ABC News article. “So by incorporating a high acid load in a drink, we are just cutting out the middleman on the way to tooth decay.”

The authors concluded that energy drinks can have twice as much damage to teeth than sports drinks.

“This type of testing simulates the same exposure that a large proportion of American teens and young adults are subjecting their teeth to on a regular basis when they drink one of these beverages every few hours,” noted Jain in the statement.

The findings affect a large amount of people, with 30 to 50 percent of young adults reportedly consuming energy drinks. The researchers believe that it is important to educate parents and teens about the consequences of energy and sports drinks. The damage to tooth enamel is permanent and can cause teeth to become overly sensitive, more likely to decay, and increasingly susceptible to cavities.

“Teens regularly come into my office with these types of symptoms, but they don´t know why,” commented AGD spokesperson Jennifer Bone, DDS, MAGD, in a statement. “We review their diet and snacking habits and then we discuss their consumption of these beverages. They don´t realize that something as seemingly harmless as a sports or energy drink can do a lot of damage to their teeth.”

Bone prescribed a number of recommendations for patients, including minimizing consumption of energy and sports drinks, chewing sugar-free gum or rinsing the mouth after consumption of energy drinks, and waiting 30 minutes after consuming those beverages so as not to spread acid on the tooth surface and increase the erosive action.

"Both tactics increase saliva flow, which naturally helps to return the acidity levels in the mouth to normal," Bone described in the statement.

While the beverages may be beneficial to athletes, medical professionals like Katz believe that people can utilize other tactics to increase their energy.

“A far better approach would be working to improve sleep quality and quantity and overall health,” replied Katz in the ABC News article. ”When these drinks combine a load of acid and sugar, they are detrimental to waistline and smile alike.”