Are Energy Drinks and Sports DrinksBad for Our Teeth?

Summer is quickly approaching and sports are now in full swing. Although it is extremely important to stay hydrated we want to inform you of a study showing that energy and sports drinks can damage tooth enamel which can boost the risk of cavities.

“The big misconception is that energy drinks and sports drinks are healthier than soda for oral health,” says researcher Poonam Jain, BDS, MPH, associate professor and director of community dentistry at the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine.

“This study completely disproves that, because they erode or thin out the enamel of the teeth, leaving them more susceptible to decay and sensitivity.”

Jain and her team tested 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks for acidity. They tested six drinks for their effects on tooth enamel and found both types caused damage. Energy drinks, however, were twice as bad. Damaged tooth enamel cannot be fixed. Their study is published in the journal, General Dentistry.

These drinks are especially popular among teens and young adults. Up to half of U.S. teens and young adults drink energy drinks, and more than half have at least one sports drink a day, according to the researchers.

The enamel samples were immersed in the drinks for 15 minutes. The researchers transferred the enamel to artificial saliva for two hours. This cycle was repeated four times a day for five days. The beverages were replaced with fresh ones every day. The cycle was meant to simulate real life, Jain says, as some teens and young adults drink the beverages every few hours.

Enamel loss was evident after five days of exposure, Jain says. The average enamel lost with sports drinks was about 1.5%, while the average loss with energy drinks was more than 3%. Jain says she cannot pinpoint what percent of enamel loss would cause problems.

Advice for Sports, Energy Drink Fans? Even one drink a day is potentially harmful, Jain says. “If the consumer is absolutely unable to give them up, the best advice is to minimize [their use] and rinse with water afterwards,” she says. “Dilute them,” she says. Do not brush immediately after drinking them. “The mouth takes about 30 minutes to bring the pH back to normal.” To be safe, wait an hour after drinking the sports or energy drink, then brush.

Sugar-containing drinks—soda, lemonade, juice and sweetened coffee or tea (iced or hot)—are particularly harmful because sipping them causes a constant sugar bath over teeth, which promotes tooth decay. Learn more about the potentially harmful oral health effects of drinking acidic and sugary drinks here in this video posted of a similar study by the Indiana Dental Association, called Drinks Destroy Teeth:

Sources: WebMD, the American Dental Association, and the Indiana Dental Association