It’s easy to assume that sports drinks are a healthy alternative to soda. After all, with so many super-fit sports heroes swigging heartily after every event, what could be the harm?
The idea behind sports drinks is to replace the water lost through sweating during exercise, as well as rebalancing your body’s minerals and sugars. This speeds up recovery by reducing muscle aches and cramps. Sports drinks do this very well, but unfortunately, there’s a problem that particularly affects oral health.
High Sugar Levels
As well as being packed with minerals, most sports drinks are heavily laced with sugars. These are vital for restoring energy to tired muscles, but they’re far less helpful for your dental health. Natural bacteria in your mouth feed on this sugar bonanza, multiplying rapidly and increasing the chances of gum disease and tooth decay.
To make things worse, most sports drinks also have high acid levels, both to improve taste and to extend shelf life. When you drink them, this acid forms a layer over your tooth enamel, slowly corroding the surface. This can weaken any existing cracks, while also softening up the natural enamel toughness that protects your teeth.
Both of these effects increase the risks the sugar-loving bacteria pose, making it easier for them to reach parts of your teeth immune to brushing and flossing.
What’s more, over time this regular bathing in mild acid will lead to dental sensitivity and unwelcome staining as your teeth become weaker and less well protected. So does this mean you should stay away from sports drinks?
Safer Sports Drinks Consumption
There’s no need to give up sports drinks entirely, but there are steps you can take to limit the damage they do.
- Drink them only after workouts to replenish lost water and electrolytes. Don’t use them as a fashion accessory or a replacement for water.
- When drinking them, take it slow, sipping steadily rather than gulping down a bottle at a time. This will give your saliva more chance to neutralize the acids without being overwhelmed.
- Ideally, drink using a straw so that contact with your teeth is avoided as much as possible.
- Rinse your mouth with pure water or antibacterial mouthwash immediately after finishing your drink.
- Wait at least half an hour before brushing your teeth or eating highly textured foods to give your enamel time to harden up again.
If you’re a regular exerciser, it’s worth changing things up from time to time to help reduce your sports drink consumption. A post-workout snack of a banana washed down with mineral water will rehydrate and rebalance just as well as a sports drink – but without the combined onslaught of sugar and acid. It’s better for your teeth, far more natural, and also kinder on your pocket.