People who regularly guzzle sports drinks designed to replenish energy and minerals may risk damaging their teeth, suggests a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
A British dentist analyzed the acidity of eight sports drinks after seeing a 23-year old runner with severely eroded front teeth who quenched his thirst with sports drinks.
All eight drinks were below the normal "safe" pH of 5.5; in other words, the drinks are too acidic. Any level below the pH of 5.5 can promote tooth erosion.
Upon hearing of the study, researchers at Baptist Hospital Dental Center in Miami decided to test the three most popular sports drinks in this country: Gatorade®, Powerade® and All Sport®.
Laboratory technicians at the dental center measured the pH levels of each drink using the standard litmus paper test. Each drink had pH levels of three, indicating a high level of acidity.
The researchers caution that because sports drinks have low pH levels, it does not mean these drinks should be avoided. In fact, sports drinks have high pH levels because they are loaded with minerals that replenish the body's supply lost during exercise.
The Chicago Dental Society urges athletes to use sports drinks in the following fashion.
- Use sports drinks in moderation; also use fruit juices or soft drinks in moderation because they have the same potential to erode teeth. Water is the best drink for light workouts in which less body fluids are lost.
- Dilute sports drinks with water.
- Drink sports drinks while they are cold. Warm temperatures speed erosion.
- If possible, use a straw to reduce contact between the drink and teeth. Do not hold the drink in your mouth or swish it around.
- Do not brush your teeth immediately after consuming a sports drink. The acid in sports drinks makes teeth softer and brushing can cause protective enamel to be lost.
The Chicago Dental Society strongly advises athletes to consider water as the logical thirst quencher.
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