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Sports Drinks and Oral Health

Summer would usually be the time where athletes start to train for the on-coming fall sports season. Although COVID has put a halt on most sports and other activities, sports drinks are still an important topic of discussion. Pediatric dentists are always willing and able to answer which beverages are best for your child’s oral health, especially when it comes to student athletes or simply those who enjoy being active. But sports drinks can also pose a threat to active adults, as well. Let’s dive right into why sports drinks may not be the best beverage option this season. 

Why Are Sports Drinks Bad for Your Teeth?

There are two primary reasons that sports drinks can be damaging to your oral health over time: sugar and acids. Starting with sugar, an average 32-ounce sports drink can contain between 56 to 76 grams of sugar, which is 4-6x the recommended daily amount for kids and teenagers. Most people believe that because sports drinks are advertised to athletes, they are inherently healthy. But this is simply not the case. Sure, sports drinks can replenish vital electrolytes and minerals, and they can also prevent dehydration or cramps. But the ingredients speak for themselves, as some sports drinks contain more sugar than the average soda. 
Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth using sugar from beverages, such as sports drinks, to produce acids that consistently dissolve and ultimately damage the teeth. Sports drinks also contain high levels of acid themselves, which allows them to have a longer shelf-life. Because sugar and acids are present in the majority of the most popular sports drinks, it may be in your best interest to avoid them completely. When it comes to pediatric dentistry, the goal is to ensure that children’s teeth are healthy over the long-run and into adulthood. If children are drinking beverages that are highly acidic at a young age, then it can pose a threat to their developing teeth. Combat this fear by having your child visit their local dentist at least twice a year for a standard check-up. 

How to Protect Your Teeth from the Effects of Sports Drinks

If you really can’t put down the sports drink, or maybe it’s just your chosen indulgence, then have no fear. You should be able to enjoy the foods and beverages that you love in moderation. For starters, drink your sports drink with a straw. This will aid in limiting the exposure of the sugars form the drink to your teeth. Upon drinking your chosen sports drink, rinse your mouth with water to dilute any leftover sugars. Strive to not drink sports drinks for an extended period of time. Each acid attack lasts for around 20 minutes, which means every time you take a sip of that sports drink, the acid damage begins all over again. You can also brush your teeth using a fluoride toothpaste, but wait at least one hour after drinking so that your teeth can recover and your enamel can re-harden. 

Alternatives to Sports Drinks

As expected, pediatrics dentists across the globe will declare that one of the safest and most effective ways to avoid any sugar or acidic properties damaging your teeth is to drink water. Your body will always thank you for increasing your water intake and it can also help flush out any food remnants left between your teeth or on the surface. Feel free to infuse your water by adding fruit such as strawberries, basil, or lemon for some additional fun and flavor. Another great alternative to sports drinks is coconut water. Not only is it super hydrating, but coconut water can help to remove bacteria from the mouth, including bacteria that causes gum disease. Coconut water is chock-full of other benefits that aren’t just for your teeth too! It’s a natural diuretic, it’s very low in calories, and it even has natural electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, and manganese. Finally, if you normally grab the sports drink after your workout, then maybe go for something like milk instead. Milk is a great source of calcium which promotes strong bone and oral health.
Sports drinks may seem like a healthy beverage to consume when staying active, but beware of the hidden sugars and acids. A reputable children’s dentist can answer all questions related to these sugar-dense beverages, especially if your child is requesting them for sports season. A good way to prevent any damage from virtually any beverage is ensuring that you and your family have a healthy morning and nightly dental routine. Contact us today to learn more about keeping your family’s teeth at their very best!
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