The Woodlands and Houston, TX
The answer to this question is pretty simple. Energy drinks are pretty much the worst beverage that someone can drink in terms of their dental health. Also, to many people’s surprise, sports drinks are right behind the energy drinks. In recent years, the number of young people, especially high school and college aged students who develop multiple cavities, tooth sensitivity, and other tooth complaints despite seemingly good oral health practices has skyrocketed! This is easy to understand when you consider that it’s mainly younger people, particularly college students, who are the ones guzzling down so many energy drinks such as Red Bull to give them that added energy boost or high school athletes who constantly stay hydrated with readily available sports drinks such as Gatorade.
A noticeable trend in many college students at dental practices across the country is that when they return home each semester and come in for their 6 month cleaning and exam, we are finding a significant increase in the number of cavities and damaged tooth enamel that they have. This is even those who brush their teeth and floss regularly, limit the amount of soda and soft drinks they consume, and also limit their sugar intake by drinking sugar free beverages. The culprit behind this is almost always energy drinks.
While they may be sugar free and low in calories, even sugar free energy drinks and sports drinks still contain the same thing, ingredients such as Citric Acid and Phosphoric Acid that are used for flavoring and as a preservative. Unfortunately, these added acidic substances are at such high levels in energy drinks, that they readily erode tooth enamel. When this happens, it leaves your teeth prone to becoming sensitive to touch and temperature changes, as well as more susceptible to cavities and decay.
A new study published by the Journal of General Dentistry found that energy and sports drinks contain so much acid that they can begin to destroy teeth after only five days of regular, consistent use. Young people drink these beverages thinking that they improve their sports performance and energy levels and that they’re ‘better’ for them than sodas, which is why they are so surprised to learn that these drinks are essentially bathing their teeth in acid and causing their enamel to decay. The study looked at the titratable acidity, pH, and fluoride of 13 different sports drinks and nine energy drinks (including Gatorade and Red Bull) and observed that damage occurred to the enamel by the time only five days were up. The energy drinks were by far the worst offenders, typically causing about twice the damage to enamel (3% enamel weight loss) as the sports drinks did (~1.5% enamel weight loss).
Normally, bacteria in our mouths convert sugar into acid, which in turn causes damage to enamel, not the sugar directly itself. However, when we start adding highly acidic things such as energy drinks into our diet, we basically just cut out the middle man on the way to developing tooth decay. Additionally, most people generally sip on energy drinks or sports drinks continuously over an extended period of time instead of drinking them all at once, which just means that they are essentially bathing their teeth in acid for a longer period of time, leaving tooth enamel more likely to suffer damage. A major cause of this concern, especially for young people, is that once enamel is lost, is doesn’t come back.
Obviously, the easiest way to prevent or reduce damage caused by energy and sports drinks would be to cut back on the amount of them that we drink. For some people removing these drinks from their diet is easier said than done. One simple way to help prevent damage to teeth even when drinking sports or energy drinks, is to simply chew sugar-free gum afterwards in order to stimulate additional saliva flow, which will help to naturally regulate the pH level in your mouth by neutralizing the acidic environment. An additional step that can be taken is to make sure that you rinse your mouth out with water in between sips of an energy drink and to try and brush your teeth shortly after.
So what are the worst energy and sports drinks for your teeth based on the highest levels of titratable acidity?
Worst Sports Drinks:
- Gatorade Blue
- Powerade Advance
Worst Energy Drinks:
- Monster Assault
- Red Bull-Sugar Free
If you find yourself drinking energy drinks or sports drinks in excess and think that your teeth might be showing some signs of enamel erosion, please feel free to contact our office to schedule an appointment or let us know during your next dentist visit. At Woodlands Dentistry, Scott Young D.D.S. and his staff will be more than happy to answer any of your questions. Dr. Scott Young and his team serve The Woodlands, Houston, Kingwood, Spring, and Conroe TX areas.