The Impact of Sports Drinks on Children

September 7, 2018

Just like that, another school year is upon us! Goodbye carefree days of summer, hello early wake up times and after school sports! With sports comes the need to stay hydrated, but not all drinks are created equal! Popular sports drink companies are marketing their products for kids and become favorite go to drinks on the playing field. Most of those favorite drinks also have high levels of sugar, which is why kids usually prefer them over plain water. The constant intake of these sugary and acidic beverages, can have negative effects on our teeth.

Dental erosion is a loss of mineral in the teeth from external sources like food and beverages. If our teeth are consistently in contact with acidic substances, the remineralization process that repairs our teeth cannot keep up with the demineralization. This leads to softening of the enamel and loss of total tooth volume, leaving our teeth more susceptible to decay. Studies have found that most sports drinks are quite acidic with a pH level well below the critical pH level of 5.5. Below this critical pH our tooth enamel begins to erode. See the table below for the pH of several popular sport and energy drinks.

Product pH
1. Monster Assault: 3.49
2. Red Bull: 3.37
3. Gatorade Fruit Punch: 3.27
4. Propel Mango: 3.23
5. Gatorade Lemon-Lime: 3.07
6. Full Throttle Energy Drink: 2.94
7. Gatorade Cool Blue: 2.92
8. 5-Hour Energy: 2.81
9. Powerade Red: 2.77
10. Rockstar: 2.53

Once the acid has softened our teeth, it’s time for the bacteria to feast on all of that sugar. Many sports drinks contain added sugar and some nearly as much as soda! The sugars we consume feed cavity causing bacteria by converting the sugars to… guessed it, more acid. It’s also providing a thriving environment for bacteria to continue to live. As your tooth structure begins to weaken, a cavity will form and eventually penetrate through your enamel leaving a “hole” in your tooth.

Sports drinks were originally intended for athletes engaging in prolonged physical activity, in which case the sugar may not be as much of a concern. Due to strategic marketing, the average consumer is not an athlete and may be receiving too much sugar and even sodium than is recommended. If your kids are engaging in highly active sports, encourage them to drink water along with their preferred sports drink. Water will help to balance the pH of the oral cavity, and help to decrease the likelihood of developing cavities.

Cavities on the teeth of a young child.

The next time you reach for one of these beverages we encourage you to read the label and be sure it’s providing you with what you really need. If you have any doubts, choose water! We hope you all have a great school year and good luck to all the kiddos participating in local sports!












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