Jan 29, 2015
Gulp, Don’t Sip

Consuming sports drinks may put athletes more at risk for tooth decay than drinking soda, especially if they sip the drinks over a long period of time. That finding was reported in a recent issue of General Dentistry, a journal published by the American Academy of General Dentistry.

The study, conducted by J. Anthony von Fraunhofer, PhD, Director of Biomaterials Research at the University of Maryland Dental School, used extracted teeth to simulate 13 years of normal exposure to energy drinks, fitness water, sports drinks, lemonade, and iced tea. When von Fraunhofer weighed the teeth after exposure, he discovered that exposing teeth to sports drinks stripped them of more enamel than exposing them to iced tea or cola—an effect he attributes to the organic acids contained in citrus flavors, a common sports drink ingredient that can break down calcium.

The sports drink industry takes issue with the study, claiming that von Fraunhofer’s methods were too different from real-world consumption to be useful. The industry also points to an earlier study in the 2002 issue of the European journal Caries Research that found no relationship between sports drinks and tooth decay.

More research is needed, but for athletes who want to lower their risk, dentists suggest the following tips:

  • Gulp sports drinks, don’t sip. Athletes who take a swig from a sports drink every few minutes during a workout or contest expose their teeth to a repeated acid bath, creating the highest risk.
  • Rinse with water after finishing the sports drink.
  • Use a straw.
  • Avoid tooth brushing immediately after consumption. Because it is abrasive, the toothpaste works the acid further into teeth.
  • Cut back on sports drinks by alternating with water.

Read von Fraunhofer’s study, “Effects of Sports Drinks and Other Beverages on Dental Enamel,” in General Dentistry, at: www.agd.org/media/2005/feb/sport_bev.asp..

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