Are Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks Better Than Soda? Don’t Bet on It

It’s no secret that Red Bull, Monster, and other energy drinks contain tons of sugar, but our patients often ask whether these drinks are a better alternative than soda. Unlike colas, many energy drinks claim to provide at least some nutritional value, usually B vitamins or mysterious herbal blends.  Not to be outdone, sports drinks like Gatorade have insinuated themselves into our vending machines and gyms as well. Surely your favorite fitness center wouldn’t offer an unhealthy beverage to its patrons, right? Wrong, says Dr. Michael J. Young, a family and cosmetic dentist in Lafayette LA. In fact, sports and energy drinks may be even more harmful to your teeth than sodas. Fortunately, preventive dentistry can help. Lafayette LA dentist

Two Dangers, One Drink

When we caution our patients against drinking soda, we cite sugar as the primary reason.  Powerade, Gatorade, and other sports drinks contain about half as much sugar as your favorite soda, while the amount of sugar in energy drinks like Fuel and Monster is often as much as, or more than what you find in soda. Sugar isn’t the only issue, though. The real problem? Acid.

The amount of acid in the typical sports or energy drink has the potential to cause ten times more damage to your tooth enamel than that found in soda. The Academy of General Dentistry performed a study to determine the effects of these drinks on your tooth enamel. Researchers submerged tooth enamel in some of the most popular energy and sports beverages, then allowed the enamel to remain immersed for 15 minutes. The experiment was designed to simulate the effects of drinking an energy drink two or three times a day. After only five days, the test enamel sustained significant damage.

Why Does This Worry Us?

As sodas come under attack for their high sugar content, sports and energy drinks have managed to slip into the mainstream relatively unnoticed by health advocates. Manufacturers have launched massive campaigns to target teenagers and young adults, and it appears to be working. In less than five years, this market has nearly tripled in size. A recent poll indicates that well over 50 percent of teenagers consume these unhealthy concoctions at least once daily.

Can You Drink Energy and Sports Drinks Without Damaging Your Teeth?

In a word, no. These drinks will never be compatible with oral health. However, you can minimize the damaging effects of these drinks on your teeth. In addition to twice-yearly dental cleanings:

  • Don’t sip. Each time you take a drink, you immerse your teeth in the sugary, acidic liquid. You don’t have to chug, but taking fewer drinks limits the amount of time during which your teeth are exposed. Alternately, use a straw.
  • Rinse. After you finish your drink, rinse your mouth with water. If possible, chew sugar-free gum. Don’t brush your teeth immediately after, however, as the acid has slightly softened your enamel. Brushing too hard could cause further damage.
  • Drink sports drinks before, not after, your workout. Dehydration reduces the amount of saliva in your mouth. Saliva, as you know, protects your teeth naturally. If you drink sports drinks while dehydrated, you will not have enough saliva to offer protection against sugar and acid.
  • Save sports drinks for intense activity. Sports drinks are best reserved for intense physical activity lasting longer than one hour. If your workout is less intense, stick with water.

Worried about your tooth enamel? Call our office at 337-237-6453 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Young. We serve patients living in and around Lafayette, including Broussard, Youngsville, Browbridge, and Scott.