As you watched your child chug a sports drink during half-time, did you ever wonder what effect it had on their mouth? Yes, sport drinks do replace fluids, carbohydrates, proteins and electrolytes after hard exercise but these drinks are also high in sugar and acid. The sugar and acid that exist in these drinks increase a child’s risk of tooth decay and can damage their enamel.
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.
The sugar in the drinks is not what rots the teeth but rather, the acid that is produced when sugar mixes with certain bacteria in the mouth. Decay can form around the part of the tooth where plaque accumulates and cause erosion. This process is even more damaging when these drinks are sipped frequently throughout the day; they spend a prolonged amount of time washing over the teeth.
Instead of buying the 32 or 64 ounce bottles of sports drink, limit kids to a single 12 to 16 ounce bottle. Encourage kids to consume as much water as they do sports drink. Drinking water will help them stay hydrated during outdoor activities and make sure their sports drink doesn’t linger on their teeth.
Another option is to dilute the sports drink with water to lower the concentration of acidity and sugar. If your kids find water boring, consider adding slices of orange, lemon or cucumber to make it fun and tasty. Interestingly enough, recent studies suggest that low-fat chocolate milk may be as good as a sports drink at promoting recovery between workouts.
As with all beverages that contain significant amounts of sugar, moderation is key to maintaining oral health.