In recent years there has been a growing demand and consumption of high energy drinks and diet sodas. Sodas have received bad press over the last couple of decades thanks to their high sugar content. Many now realize that consuming large amounts of sugar not only increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese, it can also promote acids in the mouth that will corrode tooth enamel. For many, it seemed that switching to diet sodas and fruit juices would be a better alternative, but recent research has indicated otherwise. The results show that your dental health can suffer over time dues to its corrosive effects.
Studies That Link Energy Drinks and Dental Health
A 2012 study published in the journal General Dentistry found that there is a high amount of citric acid in energy drinks. Testing the effects of sports drinks and energy drinks on tooth enamel, it was established that energy drinks stripped down twice as much enamel. An earlier NPR study published by the same journal also found that citrus fruit juices also tended to damage teeth. Lemon juice was found to be the worst culprit. These studies have prompted concern over peoples' tendencies to drink more of these drinks than those that neutralize pH like milk.
In a 2007 study, also published in General Dentistry, it was reported that in order for tooth enamel to dissolve, it would have to be exposed to a substance with a pH of less than 4.0. Many energy drinks such as the popular Red Bull have a pH of 2.5-3.5. They can lower saliva pH to up to 2.0, with battery acid measured at 1.0. Another study published in 2009 by the University of Rochester Medical Center found that acidic fruit juices caused significantly more impact than many common professional and over-the-counter teeth whitening products. Orange juice was found to severely decrease hardness and increase the roughness in enamel.
Some dental professionals are also reporting additional complications that arise from a high intake of energy drinks. The high sugar and caffeine intake cause some people to become hyperactive and grind their teeth. This adds to the damage. Others will suffer from acid reflux. Added exposure to stomach acids is more damaging to enamel and can encourage cavities.
Why Citrus Fruit Is Not Necessarily the Better Option
As mentioned, there have been at least two studies that found that fruit juices can badly corrode tooth enamel. Many people erroneously believe that fruits are safer because they are naturally sourced, and you do not need to add sugar to enjoy. However, the naturally occurring sugars and citric acid content are still a risk.
Researchers found that daily consumption of these and energy drinks posed a significant risk to consumers. This was further enhanced in those that exposed their teeth to these drinks for long periods. Those that sipped slowly were more likely to suffer more damage than those that gulped down their drinks quickly.
Safer Drink Alternatives
For those that do realize the dangers associated with sports drinks, energy drinks, and fruit juices, there are safer options to enjoy.
1. Simple tap water is the top pick. Drinking water helps to wash out any residual food and drink particles. It also encourages more saliva production that is great for protecting the teeth. Do note that flavored sparkling waters can be acidic and should be considered possibly eroding.
2. Milk has a pH of 6.5, making it great for neutralizing acids in the mouth. It is also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, and proteins that strengthen bones and inhibit the growth of bacteria in the mouth.
3. Coffee with no additives like sugar or artificial sweetener is just slightly acidic. A study suggests that this condition may actually make it helpful in preventing cavities.
4. Freshly brewed teas without additives have been found to have a low pH. Green tea is also considered safe to drink and beneficial to gum health thanks to fluoride content. Avoid iced teas that are typically loaded with sugar and are acidic.
Best Practices for Healthy Teeth
Here are some good habits to adopt that can greatly reduce the risk of your tooth enamel being corroded and developing cavities.
If you must, only drink energy drinks, diet sodas, or concentrated fruit juices once a week.
Drink it quickly or with a straw to limit exposure and chase it down with water or milk to dilute the effects.
Chew sugar-free gum that will stimulate saliva production and will help clean out the remnants of the drink.
Brush your teeth an hour after finishing your drink. This is the optimal time to get rid of any remaining acids without risking harm to your enamel.
Comment below on this article and share with our readers what has been your experience with how energy drinks have affected your oral health.
NPR: Citrus Damages Teeth
University of Rochester Medical Center: OJ Worse Than Teeth Whitening