Energy drinks can damage teeth

06:00 AEST Fri May 4 2012
Lianzi Fields, MSN NZ
Energy drinks can also erode dental enamel in as little as five days (Thinkstock)
Energy drinks can also erode dental enamel in as little as five days (Thinkstock)

It's not only soft drinks such as cola that are damaging our teeth. Scientists are now warning that the overconsumption of sports and energy drinks can also erode dental enamel in as little as five days.

Recent research published by the US Academy of General Dentistry documented a significant increase in the amount of sports and energy drinks that people, especially young adults and teenagers, consume every day, reported the UK's Daily Mail.

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"Young adults consume these drinks assuming that they will improve their sports performance and energy levels and that they are 'better' for them than soda," said Dr Poonam Jain, lead researcher at Southern Illinois University.

"Most of these patients are shocked to learn that these drinks are essentially bathing their teeth with acid."

Dr Jain's team looked at 13 different sports and energy drinks to determine their acidity, which usually sits at different levels depending on brand and flavour.

Researchers immersed samples of human tooth enamel (the outer protective layer) first in a type of energy drink for 15 minutes and then in artificial saliva for two hours. This process was repeated four times a day for five days.

"This type of testing simulates the same exposure that a large proportion of American teens and young adults are subjecting their teeth to on a regular basis when they drink one of these beverages every few hours," said Dr Jain.

The results showed that after just five days, the samples of enamel had begun to show evidence of erosion. They also found that energy drinks caused double the amount of erosion as sports drinks.

Any damage to tooth enamel is irreversible and can lead to cavities, tooth sensitivity and decay.

Jennifer Bone, a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry said: "Teens regularly come into my office with these types of symptoms, but they don't know why.

"They don't realize that something as seemingly harmless as a sports or energy drink can do a lot of damage to their teeth."

To reduce the potential impact of sports drinks on dental health, people should:

- Minimise the contact time the sports drink has with their teeth. Do not hold or swish sports drinks in your mouth. A straw or squeezy bottle can also minimise contact time with the teeth by directing fluids towards the back of the mouth.

- Where practical, consume dairy products or chew sugar free gum immediately after consumption of the sports drink.

- Avoid brushing teeth for at least 30 minutes after consuming sports drink to allow tooth enamel to re-harden.

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