Kids love sweet drinks: Kool-Aid, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, 7-Up, Root Beer, you name it. And then there are the sports drinks: Gatorade, Powerade, Red Bull and Monster, to name a few. Unless you have them at home, most kids aren'texposed to these sugary drinks until they hit middle school, when an increase in autonomy allows them to make choices about consumables. Coupled with the presence of soda machines in many schools and sports facilities, it's tough to keep kids off these sugary beverages. Commercials convince our kids that Gatorade and other sports drinks are "essential" to refuel their bodies and replace valuable electrolytes. While this may be partially true, there's no mention of the fact that sodas, sports drinks and energy drinks bathe the teeth in acid, increasing the risk for cavities.
A study performed several years ago tested the acidity levels of 22 drinks (13 sports drinks and 9 energy drinks). While all 22 caused dental enamel damage, the energy drinks were twice as likely to damage teeth than the sports drinks. It's easy to see the potential damage, as nearly 50% of all US teens consume energy drinks and, of those, more than 50% drink at least one sports drink a day.
In the study, extracted human teeth were immersed for 15 minutes in sports drinks and energy drinks to study the effects. The energy drink with the highest acid level was, surprisingly, a sugar-free drink: Red Bull Sugarfree. The other energy drinks with the highest acidity included Monster Assault, 5-Hour Energy, Von Dutch and Rockstar. MDX had the lowest acidity of the tested energy drinks.
The award for highest acidity among sports drinks went to Gatorade Rain, followed by Powerade Option, and Propel Grape.
Researchers transferred the dental samples to artificial saliva for 2 hours after every 15-minute cycle in the sports or energy drinks, to mimic "real life." Enamel loss was evident after five days.
How to Help Your Kids
Most kids understand that sugar is a culprit in tooth decay. Unfortunately, most of them don't realize that exposure to acid, as in sports drinks, energy drinks and sodas, damages the dental enamel even faster than sugar.
Obviously, our advice is that you avoid these drinks-don't bring them into your home and don't consume them when out, and encourage your children to avoid them. However, we know that both adults and kids are going to drink sodas, energy drinks and sports drinks so, we advise you to rinse your mouth with water immediately after drinking them to increase saliva production, which lowers acid levels in the mouth. Contrary to what you may think, it's not advisable to brush the teeth immediately after consuming high-acid beverages, as it actually pushes the acid into the surfaces of the teeth. Wait an hour or more after consuming these beverages to brush.
What To Do About OJ
Surprisingly, fruit juices are also a source of acid and sugar. Orange juice, grape juice, grapefruit juice and lemonade are high in acid and sugar. Although they may not have added sugar, these juices damage dental enamel in the same way as do sodas, sports drinks and energy drinks. Dr. Kherani recommends that parents offer water to drink and whole fruits to provide Vitamin C, instead of fruit juices.