You work hard to keep your body healthy, and sports and energy drinks can boost your stamina, allowing you to push harder and farther. But those drinks that help increase your bodily fitness might actually be decreasing the fitness of your mouth.
According to a study published in General Dentistry in 2012, sports and energy drinks are no healthier for your mouth than soda. Results of the study showed that the drinks quickly erode tooth enamel, or the hardest outer covering of your teeth. And less enamel means more risk of tooth decay and sensitivity.
The real culprit in these drinks?Sugar and citric acid. Like soda, sports and energy drinks contain high levels of sugar and acid that eat away at your teeth’s protective outer layers over time. When ingested often,and especially with a dry mouth from exercising, the enzymes in your saliva can’t defend against the onslaught.
Another study, conducted by researchers at University of Iowa, showed how quickly tooth enamel eroded in a variety of drinks, including apple juice, cola, diet cola, sports drinks, and energy drinks. The most corrosive drinks by far were the sports drinks, followed by energy drinks and cola.
And here’s the kicker: most everyday athletes don’t even need sports drinks. Designed for high-performance athletes, the drinks aren’t any more performance-enhancing than plain old water if your workout lasts less than 90 minutes. So if you’re running along a trail for an hour or so or working up a sweat in a high-intensity Spinning class, your swallows of sugar- and acid-laden sports drinks are more liability than benefit.
If you are a high-performance athlete who actually benefits from sports drinks, you should still take caution. A study of Olympic athletes at the London games in 2012 revealed high levels of enamel erosion, tooth decay, and other types of oral disease. Poor oral health can result in pain and difficulty eating and sleeping—which in turn can affect your training regime.
No one’s saying sports and energy drinks should be banned. In fact, some experts don’t agree with the studies’ findings. Representatives from the American Beverage Association say the study in General Dentistry didn’t adequately illustrate real-life experiences with humans. And the Gatorade Sports Science Institute has reported that ingesting sports and energy drinks during high-performance sports and exercise can actually increase the flow of saliva by hydrating the body—but that these drinks shouldn’t be sipped continuously throughout the day because that can greatly increase the exposure of your teeth to the sugars and acids that can be harmful over time.
Takeaway Tips: Keeping Your Mouth as Healthy as Your Body
- Drink water instead of sports drinks if your workout is less than 90 minutes or low intensity.
- Use sports drinks only during workouts and athletic events, not as a beverage to sip throughout the day.
- Alternate sips of water and sports drinks to rinse away sugars and acids.
- Use a straw with sports drinks so the liquid goes right to the back of the throat and doesn’t coat the teeth.