How Sports Drinks can Impact Oral Health

September 7, 2018

As summer comes to an end the swimsuits and water toys go back in storage, and the backpacks and school supplies come out. The alarm rings early in preparation for the first day of school and the start of another year of sports. All the sports that are offered increase the need to stay hydrated. The question is, are your kids getting the hydration they need or are you being deceived?  Many sports drinks are targeted toward kids. Most of these contain high levels of sugar, making them the preference of kids over water. The intake of these beverages can have unwanted ill effects on our teeth.

Sports drinks contain sugar, yes, but the acid in these can be an even larger concern. Dental erosion is a loss of mineral in the teeth from external sources like food and beverages. When subjecting our teeth to acidic substances, the remineralization process that helps to repair our teeth may not keep up with the rate of  demineralization. This can and in most cases will lead to a softening of the enamel and loss of total tooth volume. This process leaves our teeth more susceptible to decay. We can measure the amount of acidity in these sports drinks with a pH level. Most have a level well below the critical pH of 5.5. Anything below this critical pH will begin to erode our tooth enamel. See the table below for the pH of several popular choices among children.

Product pH
1. Monster Assault: 3.49
2. Red Bull: 3.37
3. Gatorade Fruit Punch: 3.27
4. Propel Mango: 3.23
5. Gatorade Lemon-Lime: 3.07
6. Full Throttle Energy Drink: 2.94
7. Gatorade Cool Blue: 2.92
8. 5-Hour Energy: 2.81
9. Powerade Red: 2.77
10. Rockstar: 2.53

After the acid has softened your teeth, the bacteria’s time to shine appears. The bacteria in our mouths feasts on all that sugar. Many sports drinks contain added sugar and some nearly as much as soda! Bacterias that cause cavities live off of those donuts you love, or the sports drink you gulp after a long game; in other words the sugar we consume. The bacteria then converts the sugar to more acid. It’s also providing a food source for the bacteria so they will continue to thrive. As your tooth structure begins to weaken, a cavity will form and eventually penetrate through your enamel leaving a “hole” in your tooth.

The sports drinks on the market were intended for athletes when performing physical activity over a long period of time. Drinking them under this condition the sugar is less of a concern. That being said the typical consumer of these drinks are not high intensity athletes. If your kids are engaging in highly active sports, encourage them to drink water along with their preferred sports drink. Water will help to balance the pH of the oral cavity, and help to decrease the likelihood of developing cavities.

Cavities on the teeth of a young child.

When shopping for groceries or running in to grab something before practice we want to encourage you to read the label. If you aren’t sure, choose WATER! We want to wish you all a good and hydrated school year.












The Science Journal of the Lander College of Arts and Sciences:

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