Why sports drinks can be bad for our teeth

Sports drinks are cleverly marketed to support healthy activity, but the high level of sugar can make them a recipe for rotting teeth.

You might be surprised that some sports drinks have almost as much sugar as soft drinks. Some brands contain up to eight teaspoons of sugar in one serve. 

It’s not just the sugar that’s worrying dentists: fizzy, sports, and energy drinks contain acids which also attack and damage tooth enamel. 

As dental decay is the most prevalent health problem in Australia, affecting nearly 50% of Australian children by the age of 12 and three in 10 adults, dentists are warning people to rethink what they drink. 

The figures    

A new survey by the Australian Dental Association found sports drinks are consumed at least once a week by more than 30 per cent of Australian adults during exercise.

It also found close to half of those who drink them didn’t realise in excess, they can be bad for your teeth.
Bupa Dentist Dr Mark Psillakis says we need to be savvy to clever marketing ploys.

“The trap is sports drinks are sold in the shop attached to the gymnasium, so people make the assumption that it’s good for them.”

But Dr Psillakis says the level of sugar and acid in sports drinks is a worrying combination, particularly if you’re thirsty.

“If you’re exerting yourself on the sporting field you’re dehydrating, so your salivary flow which is so important for buffering that acidity slows down and on top of that you’ve got an acid attack,” says Dr Psillakis.

The acidic attack

Dr Psillakis says the sugar in sports drinks is fodder for bacteria. 
“Bacteria metabolise these sugars and produce acid. Acid demineralises tooth structure so it literally pulls minerals out of the tooth.” 

“Each time we eat the ph level in our mouth drops to below 5.5, a point where enamel begins to dissolve,” says Dr Psillakis.
This is known as an acid attack, which can last for around 20 minutes.

“If the ph remains below 5.5 for any prolonged period of time the demineralisation process will continue until decay and a cavity forms,” says Dr Psillakis.

Other health implications

According to Bupa Dietician Gemma Cosgriff sports drinks, like other sugary drinks, can also be bad for your health as they are often full of empty or unnecessary kilojoules.

“They are really easy to over consume and can lead to weight gain and a raft of other health related problems including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and increased blood pressure,” says Miss Cosgriff.

 “If you’re trying to increase your exercise to help with weight loss, then having a sports drink instantly makes it harder to lose that weight and the same goes for managing weight.” 
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When sports drinks are okay

Miss Cosgriff sports drinks can be really useful in sport, but they’re not required when we are exercising for short duration.

“Most of the time it’s about that longer duration activity where you must replace your electrolytes and replace that glucose you’re losing as well. That’s when it is being used optimally. Any other rime it is just a really sweet hydrator.”

Miss Cosgriff says important to know your body and identify whether or not you need to be careful with your hydration.
“It can be really risky to become dehydrated, but always chose water as a first choice.”

“If you are into endurance sports its worth looking into electrolyte supplements either using them during or after exercise, always starting off activity really well hydrated.” 

If you do choose to have these drinks:

  • Only have them when they’re necessary, such as if you’ve been doing vigorous exercise for more than an hour
  • Sip them through a straw to cut down on contact with your teeth
  • Have a water chaser afterwards - swishing it around in your mouth
  • Don’t clean your teeth immediately afterwards as the acids soften tooth enamel 
  • Don’t drink them before bed.

Bupa Dental

Keep smiling with Bupa. Did you know that 90% of dental disease is preventable? For help to prevent oral health issues before they arise find a Bupa owned dental clinic near you.

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