A Lust For Taste: Are You Increasing Your Risk Of Decay?
It’s surprising to think that beverages that are promoted as being healthy— Sports Drinks— might be doing us harm, but this is exactly the message that the Australian Dental Association (ADA) would like to share with us during Dental Health Week 2015. In this first of seven articles about the Seven Sporting Sins (click here), we learn about how the consumption of sports drinks can increase our risk of developing tooth decay.
The trouble is two-fold:
Sports drinks are acidic and laden with sugar: both increase the likelihood that decay will develop. Sugar feeds the bacteria which cause decay, and the acid further dissolves tooth enamel and creates an environment in which decay-causing bacteria thrive. Remember that manufacturers are often sneaky about how they describe sugar in their ingredients list, so you might be surprised about how much sugar is hidden in the apparently healthy ingredients!
Athletes often consume sports drinks in a way that keeps the acid and sugar in contact with the teeth for longer. Many consumers sip their sports drinks over the length of their workout: this means that the sugar and acid remain in contact with the teeth much longer than if the drink was consumed in one go.
The ADA recommends that athletes seek professional advice as to whether they even need to be consuming specialised sports drinks, the use of which is most appropriate to elite athletes who run the real risk of losing electrolytes through their rigorous schedule of training.
For the rest of us, water is the best drink before, during and after training and events. Water provides the hydration that we need, and is the most tooth-friendly beverage of all. Making water your preferred beverage will reduce your risk of experiencing tooth decay.
More Articles About Sports Drinks And The Risk Of Decay
This article (click here) examines the oral health of elite athletes— a group that has been well-documented as having poor oral health. It recognises that “nutritional challenges from frequent carbohydrate intake and acidic sports drinks” is a significant part of the problem for elite athletes, but that “Oral diseases are preventable with well-characterised interventions at low cost”.
An interesting literature review by The University Of Queensland’s Dr Jeff Coombes (School of Human Movement) examines the link between sports drinks and dental erosion. The table on the second page is interesting as it shows that some of the most popular sports drinks in the market have between 13 and 18 grams of sugar per 250mL serve, an amount equivalent to 3-4 teaspoons. Whilst this paper focused on the risk of erosion, it’s important that athletes understand that these “healthy waters” still contain significant amounts of sugar, which is a known risk factor towards the development of decay. Dr Coombes summarises his findings by saying “For most athletes and individuals engaged in physical activity, the use of sports drinks does not provide a benefit over water.” Read the full article here.
Confirming what we already know about sugar and how it contributes to tooth decay, the Rethink Sugary Drink website dedicates an entire page to the topic. It also has a brilliant table (click here) that shows the number of grams per serve in some of Australia’s most popular beverages. To calculate the number of teaspoons, divide the number of grams per serve (in the third column) by 4. One popular sports drink has 36 grams of sugar per serve- that’s 9 teaspoons, disguised as a healthy drink!
This article (click here) is from Ireland, where the Irish Dental Association is concerned about the lack of awareness about the high sugar content of sports drinks and protein shakes. It also warns about the sticky consistency of protein bars and dried fruit, which also contain a lot of sugar and can remain in the mouth, in contact with the teeth, for a long time. With 57 words being used for sugar, it’s increasingly important that people become more aware of the labels on their food and beverages so that they can avoid high sugar drinks and snacks.
This article has a great explanation of why acidic beverages, like sports and energy drinks, contribute to the development of decay. “Bacteria convert sugar to acid, and it’s the acid bath that damages enamel, not the sugar directly,: so by incorporating a high acid load in a drink, we are just cutting out the middleman on the way to tooth decay.” The article also describes how athletes often consume energy and sports drinks because they assume their sports performance and energy will be enhanced and that the drinks are better than soft drinks, never realising that instead the drinks immerse their teeth in acid and thereby increase their risk of developing tooth decay.
Article From Corinna Dental Group
In which we shared how knowledge about sugar and its many forms is one step in educating yourself about your own health. Read it here.
Want To Know More?
We’re keen to encourage all Canberrans to be healthy and active! If you have any questions about your increasing risk of decay, ask any member of our friendly team.