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Energy Drinks: Bad for the Teeth?

Study Finds Energy, Sports Drinks Damage Tooth Enamel; Industry Says Study Not 'Real World'
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 3, 2012 -- Energy and sports drinks can damage tooth enamel, boosting the risk of cavities, according to a new study.

"The big misconception is that energy drinks and sports drinks are healthier than soda for oral health," says researcher Poonam Jain, BDS, MPH, associate professor and director of community dentistry at the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine.

"This study completely disproves that, because they erode or thin out the enamel of the teeth, leaving them more susceptible to decay and sensitivity."

The American Beverage Association takes issue with the study, says Tracey Halliday, a spokesperson. An ABA statement reads, in part: "This study was not conducted on humans and in no way mirrors reality."

Jain and her team tested 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks for acidity. They tested six drinks for their effects on tooth enamel and found both types caused damage. Energy drinks, however, were twice as bad. Damaged tooth enamel cannot be fixed.

The study is published in the journal General Dentistry.

Sports Drinks, Energy Drinks, and Teeth: Study Details

The drinks are especially popular among teens and young adults. Up to half of U.S. teens and young adults drink energy drinks, and more than half have at least one sports drink a day, according to the researchers.

They tested the acidity levels of all 22 drinks. They found the levels of acidity in the drinks vary between brands and between flavors of the same brands.

Gatorade Blue had the highest acidity among sports drinks. Next was Hydr8.

Among the energy drinks with the highest acidity:

  • Red Bull Sugarfree
  • Monster Assault
  • 5-hour Energy
  • Von Dutch
  • Rockstar

MDX had the lowest acidity of the energy drinks.

Energy Drinks, Sports Drinks, and Tooth Enamel

Jain's team immersed enamel samples from extracted human teeth into three sports drinks and three energy drinks.

The sports drinks tested were:

  • Gatorade Rain
  • Powerade Option
  • Propel Grape

The energy drinks tested were:

  • Monster Assault
  • Red Bull
  • 5-hour Energy

The enamel samples were immersed in the drinks for 15 minutes. The researchers transferred the enamel to artificial saliva for two hours.

This cycle was repeated four times a day for five days. The beverages were replaced with fresh ones every day.

The cycle was meant to simulate real life, Jain says, as some teens and young adults drink the beverages every few hours.

Enamel loss was evident after five days of exposure, Jain says.

The average enamel lost with sports drinks was about 1.5%, while the average loss with energy drinks was more than 3%. Jain says she cannot pinpoint what percent of enamel loss would cause problems.

Industry Response Continued

According to ABA, the four drinks a day simulated by the study is above average. So, too, is the length of time the enamel was exposed. "People do not keep any kind of liquid in their mouths for 15-minute intervals over five day periods," the statement says.

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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