Sports Drinks

Sports drinks make up a multi-billion dollar industry ($6.8 billion in 2014 according to the Wall Street Journal), and the growth of sports drinks is outpacing the growth of soft drinks.  Many analysts think this trend is due to an improved awareness of the health risks associated with the consumption of soft drinks.

Most people know that a Coke is not good for you.  There is a mindset, encouraged by the sports drink industry in its advertisements, that sports drinks are healthier than soft drinks and even better for you than water.  They spend a lot of money to make people think that if you’re going to be a real athlete, you have to drink Gatorade.

Unfortunately, sports drinks are not quite the “healthy” option they claim to be.  This blog will address the dental consequences of sports drinks.  Click HERE to read about the general health consequences according to some 2012 studies published in the British Medical Journal.

Sports drinks have two characteristics that make them bad for teeth: 1) high sugar content, and 2) very low pH.  You can see from the following table that the sugar content varies pretty widely, but the pH is consistently as low as a soft drink.

Most people know that sugar causes cavities.  What you need to know is that a low, or acidic, pH makes it much easier for cavities to start.  In the same way that acid etches glass, acid also softens and weakens enamel.  Enamel, which is the hardest substance in the human body, is damaged when the pH of its environment drops below 5.5.  All of these drinks fall far below that threshold.

So if you know you are a cavity-prone individual, or your teenage athlete has a bunch of new suspicious areas on his or her teeth (called incipient lesions by your dentist), it’s time to trade the Gatorade for good old-fashioned water.

A few things to remember when considering a sports drink:

  • Always look at the serving size when assessing the nutritional facts. If the serving size is different than the size of the bottle, you’re going to have to do some math.  Gatorade labels have nutritional information for a 12 fl. oz. serving.  This means if you drink the whole 32 oz. bottle, you need to multiply those grams of sugar by 2.66 to get the true amount of sugar you just ingested.
  • Think about the volume you actually drink. Most people drink much larger amounts of a sports drink than they ever would of a soda.
  • Pay attention to the length of time it takes you to drink your sports drink. Sipping on a sports drink throughout a long sporting event is much worse for your teeth than quickly guzzling 32 ounces at the end of a game or practice.


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