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Sport drinks can weaken your teeth

Dr. Susan Lan
newsroom@vaildaily.com
VAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the DailySusan Lan is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, and a preventive medicine and public health specialist. She is co-owner of Apex Dental with her husband Michael Harms, DDS.
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If you’re like most athletes, you take hydration seriously. The convenience of commercial sport drinks can’t be overstated. However, inappropriate and overuse of these types of drinks is common and can contribute to weight gain, teeth sensitivity and cavities.

Sport drinks are often thought to be better at hydrating an athlete that any other type of fluid. But are they? That depends on the intensity and duration of your exercise routine. Experts now recommend plain water for exercise less than one hour per day. A sports drink may be the better option for anything over one hour or at high intensity. Sport drinks may contain carbohydrates, protein and/or electrolytes. Carbohydrates to replace glycogen stores, protein for repairing muscle (after a workout) and electrolytes to replace any lost during perspiration.

An often overlooked ingredient in many sport drinks is citric acid. Citric acid is found in citrus fruits such as lemon and limes. It is added to sport drinks and other beverages for its tart and tangy flavor. However, that tangy flavor comes with a high acid content that can weaken the outer enamel layer of your teeth. Weakened enamel leads to sensitivity and increased risk for cavities. Adding sugar to the equation encourages bacterial growth. Increased bacterial load leads to increased acid production, which further weakens enamel. So, acidic and sugary drinks substantially increase your risk of teeth sensitivity and cavities. Due to a combination of acidic ingredients, sugar and other additives, sports drinks can wreck havoc on your teeth – even more than soda.



Loss of tooth enamel and resulting sensitivity is thought to begin at a pH of 5.5. Commercial sports drinks are notoriously acidic. A 1 unit change in pH is a 10 fold change in acidity. So Gatorade (pH 2.5) is 10 times more acidic than orange or apple juice (pH 3.5) and 100 times more acidic than coffee or tomato juice (ph 4.5). From an acidity standpoint, you’re better off drinking coffee and fruit juice than commercial sport drinks.

So, drinking sport drinks or soda is like bathing your teeth in acid! So what’s an athlete to do? You don’t need to stop drinking these convenient rehydration drinks. There are several things you can do to minimize the effect on your teeth.



First, consume them as quickly as possible to minimize the time the drink stays in your mouth. No swishing! Using a straw is even better.

Second, drink it cold. Studies have shown refrigerated drinks tend to have a reduced erosive potential.

And third, swish with some water after drinking to remove lingering sugar and acid on your teeth.



Sport drinks may be good for hydration, rehydration and recovery, but they are bad for your teeth. Remember the three steps to minimize their effect. Your pocketbook will thank you for it in the long run.

Susan Lan is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, and a preventive medicine and public health specialist. She is co-owner of Apex Dental with her husband Michael Harms, DDS. Receive health tips to keep you active at Facebook.com/ApexDentalVail or text ‘like ApexDentalVail’ to 32665.


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