April 3, 2009 -- Sports drinks may boost your energy, but they can also weaken your teeth, a new study shows.
The popular energy drinks sipped by many athletes to increase stamina contain levels of acid that can cause tooth erosion, hypersensitivity, and staining, according to the findings of New York University dental researchers.
The beverages also can cause excessive tooth wear and may damage underlying bone-like material, causing teeth to soften and weaken, the researchers say. The drinks may also possibly trigger conditions leading to severe tooth damage and loss.
The findings are being presented at the International Association for Dental Research in Miami.
"This is the first time that the citric acid in sports drinks has been linked to erosive tooth wear," says Mark Wolff, DDS, professor and chairman of the department of cardiology and comprehensive care at New York University College of Dentistry.
He says people who use sports energy drinks for energy should not brush their teeth immediately after drinking the beverages. Softened enamel, he says, is highly susceptible to the abrasive properties of toothpaste.
To prevent tooth erosion, Wolff says:
- Drink sports drinks in moderation.
- Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth to allow softened enamel to reharden.
- If you drink a lot of sports drinks, ask your dentist if you should use an acid-neutralizing remineralizing toothpaste to help reharden soft enamel.
Sports Drink Study 'Unfair'
In the study, cows’ teeth were cut in half. Half of the specimens were immersed in a sports drink, the other half in water, and then the halves were compared. The five sports drinks tested were Vitamin Water, Life Water, Gatorade, Powerade, and Propel Fit Water.
All five caused softening, but Gatorade and Powerade also caused "significant" staining, according to an abstract of the study.
Cows’ teeth were used because of their close resemblance to human teeth, according to a news release.
Craig Stevens, spokesman for the American Beverage Association, says such studies are unfair and do not present "an accurate or actual picture of the way sports drinks are consumed."
"The testing procedures they used are outside the realm of what happens in real life," he says. "Beverages pass right through the mouth, and these beverages have a purpose, and are proven to enhance physical performance. To use them like this is simply providing unhelpful information to consumers."
He adds: "To suggest that sports drinks are a unique cause of dental caries or tooth erosion is overly simplistic. Oral health is determined by a variety of factors, including types of food consumed and the length of time foods are kept in the mouth."