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Monday, Oct 2, 2023 | Latest Print Edition

Sports drink consumption leads to tooth erosion

Sports drinks may re-hydrate you after a workout, but they may also wreak havoc on your teeth.

Recent studies have shown that extended consumption of these types of beverages could lead to tooth erosion and other damages.

The studies found sports drinks can damage tooth enamel.

Sometimes the damage is even more than soft drinks, due to the combination of acidic components, sugars and other additives.

Dr. Brad Litkenhous, a dentist with Auburn Dental Associates in Auburn, said sports drinks and soft drinks contain many of the same ingredients, but people naturally gravitate toward sports drinks.

"Most people drink sports drinks in larger quantities," Litkenhous said. "Some people will buy a 20 oz. soda from the store and not finish the whole thing, but most people will guzzle a 20 oz. or even 32 oz. sports drink until it is gone."

Researchers at New York University College of Dentistry soaked cow teeth, due to their similarity to human teeth, in either water or top-selling sports drinks such as Vitamin Water, Gatorade, Powerade and Propel Fitness Water.

They soaked the teeth for more than 90 minutes to replicate drinking a beverage over time.

The research measured the affect on dentin, the dental tissue under the enamel that determines the size and shape of teeth.

According to the study, all of the tested sports drinks softened the dentin.

Researchers determined the drinks are very acidic, and they can cause significant effects such as eroding, etching of the teeth and root exposure.

Litkenhous said many people make the common mistake of brushing their teeth immediately after intake.

He said it brushes away the weak enamel, and people should wait up to an hour after a drink.

According to the American Dental Association, high acid content in beverages weakens the enamel, making teeth more susceptible to bacteria.

Bacteria slip into the cracks and crevices of teeth and erode the enamel.

The sugars in sports drinks also exacerbate the situation and encourage the bacterial growth.

"The acid demineralizes the top layer of enamel and lowers the overall pH level in your mouth," Litkenhous said. "A lower pH level invites bacteria, and when bacteria finds sugar, it produces even more acid and sugar."

The ADA said sports drinks should not be an everyday beverage for adults, but it is more important for younger people to avoid excess intake.

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Athletes are the primary consumers of sports drinks and use them for re-hydration after intense workouts or performances. ADA said there is no harm for athletes as long as there is moderate intake.

However, Dr. Jean Weese, professor and registered dietician, said the best drink for any person or athlete is water, because it causes no harm to teeth.

"Very few athletes exercise enough to need to replace electrolytes from sweat," Weese said.

Further studies found that drinking a sports beverage in one sitting is not as damaging to your teeth as sipping on a drink throughout the day. ADA recommends drinking a sports drink in its entirety.

They also recommend other preventative techniques such as drinking through a straw.

It is also reported drinking plenty of water can help balance the acid and sugar intake that causes tooth erosion.

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