(NaturalNews) If you are known by your friends for your "winning smile" or are otherwise concerned about your dental health - and you're a sports drink-a-holic - you might want to consider using a different option to help energize before workouts or quench your thirst after.
That's because, according to a new study published recently in the peer-reviewed General Dentistry journal, sports and energy drinks cause irreversible damage to teeth by eating away at the pearly, shiny outer layer of enamel.
Specifically, researchers found, the drinks contain a high acidity level, which is responsible for the damage. What's more, say the experts, many people are under the impression that consuming sports drinks is a healthier alternative.
"Young adults consume these drinks assuming that they will improve their sports performance and energy levels and that they are 'better' for them than soda," Poonam Jain, BDS, MS, MPH, lead author of the study, said. "Most of these patients are shocked to learn that these drinks are essentially bathing their teeth with acid."
According to the study, researchers examined the acidity in 13 sports and energy drinks, finding that levels vary between brands and flavors of the same brand(s). Researchers tested acid levels by submerging samples of human tooth enamel in the different drink samples for 15 minutes, then in artificial saliva for two hours, repeating the process four times a day for five days. Samples were stored in fresh artificial saliva the rest of the time.
"This type of testing simulates the same exposure that a large proportion of American teens and young adults are subjecting their teeth to on a regular basis when they drink one of these beverages every few hours," Jain said.
Sports drinks cause less damage than energy drinks, but...
Researchers found that after only five days damage was already evident.
They did discover one caveat, however. Energy drinks caused significantly more damage than simple sports drinks. "In fact, the authors found that energy drinks caused twice as much damage to teeth as sports drinks," said a summary of the findings.
What makes the results so compelling is the widespread utilization of sports and energy drinks, especially among young adults. Researchers noted that between 30 and 50 percent of U.S. teens consume energy drinks daily, while as many as 62 percent consume at least one sports drink per day.
What's more, damage to tooth enamel is permanent, and without that protective outer layer, teeth are more prone to cavities and are much more likely to decay -- not a good thing for youngsters who hope to keep their real teeth well into their twilight years.
An ounce of prevention?
"Teens regularly come into my office with these types of symptoms, but they don't know why," says Jennifer Bone, DDS, MAGD, spokeswoman for the Academy of General Dentistry. "We review their diet and snacking habits and then we discuss their consumption of these beverages. They don't realize that something as seemingly harmless as a sports or energy drink can do a lot of damage to their teeth."
There are other factors to consider as well. Such drinks are heavy in sugar, and high sugar content is a leading cause of obesity, which itself leads to a host of health problems such as diabetes and heart trouble. Such poor dietary habits will hit you both in the belly and the wallet.
Bone recommends limiting intake of sports and energy drinks. She also says it's important to either chew sugar-free gum or rinse your mouth out when you finish.
"Both tactics increase saliva flow, which naturally helps to return the acidity levels in the mouth to normal," she said.