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What energy drinks might be doing to your teen

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Energy drinks might be causing tooth decay.

If you want to save money on dental visits and keep your teen’s smile intact, consider a recent study showing sports and energy drinks may be leading to tooth rot. The high sugar, high calorie drinks not only are suggested to contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic, but now, a study shows the drinks could be stripping tooth enamel, which is the thin outer layer of the tooth. When that happens, teeth become discolored, sensitive to heat and cold and the edges can become rough. Eroded enamel makes teeth more susceptible to decay, infection and abscesses.

Energy drinks bathe kids’ teeth in acid

Researcher Poonam Jain, BDS, MS, MPH, lead author of the study that is published in the journal General Dentistry said in a media release, "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.”

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

Tooth enamel is made mostly from minerals and acid – in this case citric acid in energy drinks – eats away at enamel. What’s more, the researchers say it’s impossible to know how much citric acid is in the drinks because it’s not on the label of the drinks; varying between flavors and brands of the same drink.

For their study, the scientists tested levels of acidity in 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks by placing tooth enamel in each beverage for 15 minutes. Next they put the human tooth enamel in artificial saliva for 2 hours. They repeated the test four times a day for five days. Jain explained the test simulates the way teens consume sports and energy drinks every few hours.

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Both of the drinks caused tooth enamel damage after 5 days, but energy drinks were worse, causing twice as much damage as sports drinks.

AGD spokesperson Jennifer Bone, DDS, MAGD says teens think sports and energy drinks are harmless and often surprised to learn symptoms related to tooth damage can come from the drinks.

You can minimize the harm by rinsing the mouth with water after drinking the beverages. Rinsing stimulates saliva and helps PH return to normal. Dr. Bone also recommends waiting an hour before brushing so citric acid isn’t spread onto the tooth surfaces.

It’s not just your child’s weight that can suffer from high calorie sports and energy drinks. Both beverages could also damage the teeth. Sports drinks are twice as likely to destroy tooth enamel that is irreversible, according to the study finding.

Academy of General Dentistry
"Sports and Energy Drinks Responsible for Irreversible Damage to Teeth"
May, 2012

Image credit: Morguefile