Sports drinks are products designed to help athletes and others stay hydrated. Unlike plain water, sports drinks contain added chemicals known as electrolytes. Electrolytes are lost when you sweat, but they are important in keeping your muscles and nerves performing well and staying balanced.
Sports drinks contain electrolytes such as calcium, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate and bicarbonate. If you have been losing electrolytes through athletic activity or illness, sports drinks can help you recover and feel better faster than other beverages because they provide more than hydration. They can help you stay in the game with more energy. In fact, professional athletes rely on these drinks and doctors sometimes prescribe them to patients with some illnesses.
While they have benefits, sports drinks can be bad for teeth and general oral health. The issue is often the added ingredients in these beverages, which can damage your teeth.
How Sports Drinks Affect Your Teeth
Research and lab tests have shown that many sports drinks have high levels of acids and sugar. This can put you at risk of cavities and can hurt your tooth enamel. In fact, sports drinks can have such a high level of acidity that, over time, they can corrode enamel away to the layer under the enamel. This can make your teeth vulnerable to cavities, stains and sensitivities.
The sugar in sports drinks is also bad news. It can feed bacteria already in your mouth. The acidity in the drinks can make your teeth more vulnerable to bacteria, too. Together, this can allow bacteria to penetrate your tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay, gum disease, cavities and periodontal disease.
How to Decrease the Effects
While sports drinks and teeth are not a great match, there are a few things you can do to make these beverages less damaging to your oral health:
- Use a straw: You can keep your sports drink in a cup or container with a straw. This prevents the drink from touching your teeth as much, reducing the damage.
- Sip slowly: Try not to take huge gulps of your drink. This allows your saliva to naturally wash away some of the acids. Sipping slowly also prevents your mouth from becoming dry, which can make your teeth more vulnerable.
- Rinse your teeth: After using sports drinks, rinse your mouth with mouthwash or water to wash away some of the acid before it can harm your teeth very much. However, don’t brush your teeth right away. Wait 30 minutes or more to brush or you’ll push the acid onto your teeth even more.
- Consider whether you really need sports drinks: Consider whether you’re running around enough to really need a sports drink. For lighter practice and workouts, consider plain water and keep sports drinks for more important games.
- Choose your drinks carefully: If you decide to try energy beverages, read the labels. Compare brands and find the ones with the least sugar and the fewest added ingredients.
- Keep the rest of your diet healthy: You will compound the problem if you eat sugary foods or drink sodas as well as sports drinks. If you need these beverages for performance or your health, keep the rest of your diet healthy.
- Practice good oral health: Brush and floss your teeth at night and in the morning and take care of your teeth. Visit your dentist for regular cleanings and check-ups and let them know if you drink sports beverages.
Better Alternatives to Sports Drinks
You may not always need energy drinks, and your teeth will thank you if you limit these beverages or cut them out of your diet entirely.
There are a few good-for-you alternatives which help you stay hydrated and aid in performance on the field without compromising your oral health:
- Water: Water is how athletes excelled for many generations, and even today some pro athletes choose to replenish this way. Water is also excellent for your dental health.
- Bananas: Bananas are high in potassium and also help your body replenish glycogen, which helps rebuild muscles. They are a healthy type of carbohydrate that helps you stay fueled.
- Watermelon juice: Watermelons have the amino acid L-citrulline, and have been shown in studies to help athletes with post-activity muscle soreness.
- Coconut water: Coconut water is high in potassium and is used by many athletes to replenish energy after workouts.
Before making any changes, you might want to speak with your medical professional about your needs. Your doctor can help you understand the healthiest ways to stay hydrated in your activities.
The Importance of Regular Dental Care
If you have energy drinks regularly or take part in sports, you especially can’t afford to neglect your teeth. Regular dental care ensures that a dentist looks at your teeth and has a chance to spot problems before they become serious issues. A dentist can also clean your teeth professionally to keep them at their brightest and strongest, plus give you other oral health advice.
If you’d like to make an appointment with a dentist in the Alberta area, contact Gateway Dentistry Group in Grande Prairie for your appointment.