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Are Sports Drinks as Harmful to Kids’ Teeth as Soda?

November 8, 2013

Dentists have always taken a stand against the consumption of too many juices, flavored drinks, or soda (carbonated beverages) with kids. But today, together with the American Academy of Pediatrics, dentists are now taking a stand against sports drinks too. While most people would equate drinking sports drinks with fitness and assume that it’s a better choice than taking soda, juices and even water, the facts show something different and that our assumptions about sports drinks may need to be realigned with reality.

What’s in a Sports Drink?

Sports drinks contain carbohydrates, electrolytes, minerals, and flavoring. They are intended to replace the water and electrolytes lost during excessive sweating during sports activities. While they are ideal for young athletes who engage in long, vigorous physical activities, in most cases they are unnecessary for ordinary daily consumption. Plain water is still best as sports drinks contain extra calories that young children don’t need.  The calories can just lead to potential obesity and dental problems.

Are They A Better Option Than Soda?

Like soda or carbonated beverages, sports drinks can contain high levels of sugar. Sports drinks can contain as much as two-thirds the sugar of soda drinks:

  • A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that 12 ounces of a leading brand of cola and a leading brand of energy drink each contained 42 grams of sugar, while a leading sport drink contained 21 grams of sugar.
  • According to a University of Iowa study, a leading sport drink had the greatest erosion potential on both enamel and roots of teeth when compared to leading brands of energy drinks, soda and apple juice.
  • Studies showed that enamel damage caused by sports drinks and flavored juices were three to eleven times greater than carbonated drinks.

What Do Sports Drinks Do to Our Teeth?

According to the International Association for Dental Research, consuming sports drinks often may cause softening, staining, and even erosion of the teeth.

Because of the acids and additives found in sports drinks, teeth enamel may undergo irreversible teeth erosion.  The enamel - the thin, outer layer of the teeth that maintain structure and shape and protect it from decay – can lose calcium because of the acidity present in the sports drinks.

Sugar isn't actually the only causative agent that rots teeth. It is the acid that is produced when sugar reacts with bacteria in the mouth. This is why one may be prone to tooth decay more when they drink sugary drinks all throughout the day (SEE Why Do I Get So Many Cavities?).

Why Sports Drinks Cause More Damage to the Teeth

When one consumes sports drink, they are usually thirsty and are not consuming the drink while having a meal. During a meal, saliva usually neutralizes the acidity in one’s mouth, protecting the teeth. But when one is thirsty, saliva production is decreased so your mouth environment becomes acidic.

When you drink sports drinks to quench your thirst, the amount of sugar in your drink and the acidic environment in your mouth may be greater and cause more harm than drinking soda with a meal. In addition, the chewing of food will increase your saliva flow, reducing the decay began by these sugary drinks.

Preventive dental care for children is of utmost importance because it sets the precedent on how much orthodontic work will be done in their later years. For routine dental check-ups and oral hygiene care in the Indianapolis area, contact Dr. Reese at 317-882-0228. You can also request an appointment for a consultation at their clinic located just north of Greenwood, Indiana in Indianapolis, five minutes south of I-465 on US 31 between I-65 and Highway 37.