12:21 PM

Sip Safely

Spring and summer are a time of sports and hot, humid weather which leads to very thirsty kids. That often translates into an increase in the consumption of sugary and acidic sports drinks. These seemingly harmless liquids can actually wreak havoc on children’s teeth.

The combination of acidic components, sugars, and additives in sports drinks combine to erode the tooth’s surface, weakening the enamel that protects teeth from bacteria. The enamel erosion ultimately makes teeth more susceptible to bacteria and leads to hypersensitivity, staining, and tooth decay.

Frequent consumption of sports drinks lowers the pH in the mouth promoting the demineralization of tooth enamel. (The lower the pH, the more acidic the item.) Demineralization is caused primarily by stable acids found in acidic foods and drinks or which form as by product from bacteria feeding on starches and sugars in the mouth, especially refined sugars.

Demineralization begins at a pH level of 5.5 although under certain conditions, may even start at a higher pH. Popular sports drinks can have a pH of 2.4 and contain 5.5 tsp of sugar in a 12 oz can. So, not only does the drink have a pH that promotes demineralization, it also contains 5.5 tsp of sugar, which can independently contribute to demineralization and tooth decay.

To put the sports drink pH of 2.4 in perspective, compare it to battery acid, which has a pH of 0 and water, which has a pH of 5-7 (neutral). Shocking that a sports drink is closer on the pH scale to battery acid, than water.

Given all this, water is always the best option for everyone but the highest performing athletes who need to replenish minerals from intensive workouts.

If these facts haven’t convinced you to avoid the casual consumption of sports drinks, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Don’t sip the drink throughout the day. - Drinking them for short periods of time means less time for the sugars and acids to erode enamel. Rinse your mouth with water when you’re done to clear away remaining acids and sugars.

Don’t swish the drink around your mouth. - That only increases the risk of erosion. Instead, use a straw so teeth aren’t immersed in or in direct contact with the sugars and acids in the beverage.

Resist the urge to brush your teeth immediately after finishing a sports drink. - Tooth enamel softens after consumption of acidic drinks, making teeth susceptible to more wear from the abrasives in toothpaste. Wait 45 minutes to an hour before brushing to give your saliva time to re-mineralize the tooth structure and neutralize the damage.

Seek regular dental care. - Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, five times more common than asthma. It’s also preventable with proper care. Your dentist can identify early signs of erosion, pinpoint the causes, and advise you on how to prevent further damage and more serious problems from occurring.