a variety of sports drinks

How Sports Drinks Affect Your Dental Health

Team General Dentistry

Many children, teens, and adults who participate in athletics are fans of sports drinks and it’s easy to see why. They’re marketed as improving performance and recovery, and because they contain beneficial electrolytes, people are given the mistaken impression that sports drinks are a healthy alternative to sodas and other soft drinks. Are sports drinks really better than other options? And how do they affect your teeth? Here’s what you need to know.

Sports Drinks Are Loaded With Sugar

Most people would probably guess that sports drinks have less sugar than juice or soda or, at worst, the same amount. You might be surprised to learn that sports drinks often have even more sugar than other soft drinks, including soda.

You might not see the word “sugar” on the ingredient list, but you will see sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, which are essentially the same thing. Why are these in sports drinks? Because sugar is a carbohydrate that can provide a quick energy boost. It’s a cheap way to improve performance—even if that sugar rush leads to an inevitable crash later on.

From a dental health perspective, this sugar is bad news because the bacteria that causes cavities thrives on it. Unlike sugary foods, when sugar is in a drink, it completely coats the teeth, making it even easier for plaque to form. Plaque is a precursor to tartar, which leads to cavities and gum disease.

Sports Drinks Are Acidic

Making matters worse, sports drinks are acidic. This makes them a one-two punch as far as your oral health is concerned. The citric acid in these drinks, which is used both as a preservative and as a flavor booster, erodes the tooth enamel. When tooth enamel erodes, the teeth are more prone to cavities—and, of course, all the sugar we’ve already discussed leads to more cavity-causing bacteria.

You may think you can avoid this by switching to a sports chew, gum, or gel instead, but they’re usually high in acid and sugar too.

Sports Drink Alternatives

So what’s the best alternative to sports drinks? Plain old water! For most amateur athletes, water is all that is needed to keep you hydrated during sports and other activities. If you’re concerned about electrolytes, watermelon juice and coconut water are less sugary options, or simply pair your water with a banana or slice of watermelon for a snack.

If you really love sports drinks and don’t want to give them up, don’t drink them in the large bottles sold in stores—eight-ounce portions are all that you really need. A straw can help limit contact with teeth and a thorough rinse with water once you’ve finished will dilute some of the acid and sugar.

Schedule an Appointment Today

We’re always happy to discuss nutrition and oral hygiene habits when you come in for your routine dental check-ups. To schedule an appointment, contact us today at one of our three New Jersey locations in Holmdel, Brick, or Oakhurst.