Are sports drinks bad for your teeth?

How often do you grab a sports drink after a workout? Or instead of a soft drink with a meal?

It’s common to think that sports and energy drinks are better for you because of their marketing – but reach for them too often and you might end up damaging your teeth. What they don’t tell you on the label is that they can have as much or more sugar and acid than many soft drinks and juices. Here are five reasons why sports drinks are bad for your teeth:

1. High acid content

Drinks with low pH are highly acidic. Soft drinks are known to be highly acidic, but the ingredients in many sports drinks mean they fall into the same category.

Citric acid is often used to boost flavour and extend the shelf life, but it can also weaken enamel and dentine, the two outer layers of your teeth. This will make them more sensitive and more prone to cavities and decay.

2. High in sugar

Not only are sports drinks highly acidic, they are often high in sugar (carbohydrate). In fact, sports drinks are specifically designed to provide a balance of carbohydrate, electrolytes and fluid – all things your body loses when you do high-intensity exercise, especially for longer than an hour.

However, the sugar in sports drinks will stick to your teeth and provide a source of food for the oral bacteria that lives in your mouth all the time, increasing your risk of dental decay.

3. Frequent sipping is harmful

How you drink energy drinks is as much of a concern as the ingredients list. If you frequently sip, swill or rinse your mouth with a sports drink during a workout, you are increasing the amount of time that teeth are exposed to an acidic environment. This makes teeth more vulnerable to erosion.

Drinking a water chaser (a mouthful of water following a mouthful of sports drink) doesn’t help prevent dental erosion. Water may help flush some of the acidic liquid away, but the damage has already been done. It’s better to avoid frequent consumption altogether.

4. Dehydration and dry mouth

When you exercise, you get dehydrated, which has a knock-on effect for dental health. Saliva protects your teeth by diluting and clearing liquids at the tooth surface. It also neutralises acids in the mouth. Drinking sports drinks when your mouth is already dry from exercising, increases the potential for tooth erosion and decay.

5. Brushing makes it worse

Brushing teeth within 60 minutes of consuming a sports drink can cause further damage as the tooth surface is still soft from the exposure to the acidic fluid. Using a highly abrasive toothpaste (e.g. some whitening toothpastes) may also exacerbate enamel erosion.

If you’re at all concerned about the effect sports drinks may be having on your teeth, search ineedadentist to find a dentist near you.