A female athlete drinking a sports drink

We all know that sugary sodas will destroy your teeth. It’s common knowledge, and we’ve been telling our kids (and ourselves) for years to avoid the colas, sodas, and pops, but there’s something we don’t normally look to as a potential dental threat: sports drinks. 

We’re going to take a deep dive into this sporty subject and get to the bottom of what Gatorade, Powerade, and Propel are doing to our teeth.

What’s Inside?

Electrolytes: Sports drinks contain electrolytes. Primarily they contain the most common and vital seven: sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonate. These ingredients are very beneficial to your body, especially if you’re working out or participating in sports. 

When we sweat we lose a lot of our natural electrolytes, and they are essential to your body’s functions. Electrolytes help muscles and nerves stay balances and function properly. Without enough electrolytes in the body you can expect dehydration, nerve spasms, and cramps. 

Sugar: We don’t really feel it necessary to explain sugar. It makes things sweet, and it’s notorious for damaging teeth.

Acids: Put away your tapestry, this is serious stuff. The acids inside sports drinks can have serious effects on your dental health. In fact, they’re so acidic they can actually corrode your teeth down to the dentin: that’s below the enamel. 

Strange Sources

Because sports drinks have such high sugar and acid content, researchers have studied the role they play in cavity development. Interestingly, most studies paint these drinks as perfectly healthy.

Craig Horswill, PhD, senior research fellow at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, reported a study of saliva flow in endurance athletes who drank Gatorade, diluted orange juice, a homemade sports drink, or water. The study showed that if the sports drinks had any effect it was only that they decreased dehydration and increased saliva flow. Increased saliva flow reduces cavity formation so the researchers reported that Gatorade prevents cavities.

Another study in 2002 at the Ohio State University tracked 304 athletes and found no link between sports-drink use and dental erosion. The study was sponsored by Quaker Oats. Quaker Oats owns Gatorade. Coincidence? We’re not so sure.

The Facts

Why are we worried about drinking soda? The sugar that’s right. Now, how much sugar is in a Coca Cola? It’s 36 grams. How about Gatorade? Get ready for this: 34 grams. This stuff is basically soda without the carbonation. There’s no reason why sports drinks would be better for your dental health than soda. From a standpoint of sugar and acids they are two peas in a pod — two drinks in a cooler. 

The truth is that these drinks can cause real damage to your teeth. They pose the same threat as soda. So, what can you do?

What You Can Do

Obviously water is your best option, but if you need those sweet, sweet electrolytes then here are some tips to protect those pearly whites. 

  • Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth after drinking. Brushing right after you have one of these drinks can cause serious corrosion of dentin. 
  • Try to drink it all in one sitting. We have a saying in our office: sip all day, get decay. You don’t want to subject your teeth to the sugar and acids for a long time. 
  • Sip water in between drinks. This will wash away some of the acid.

Great Alternatives

You aren’t limited to sports drinks when you’re working out! There are plenty of great alternative that replenish your electrolytes without eroding your teeth. 

Make a banana smoothie, drink watermelon juice, or sip on some coconut water. These are all low sugar alternatives that will give you the refreshing feeling that sports drinks do. 

If you’re really serious about working out though just remember that the best option is water. Water is the most natural, healthy, and hydrating option and it has zero sugar or acid.

If you drank too much Gatorade and it’s too late for you, it might be time to make an appointment with Cirocco Dental. Give us a call to find out about our fillings.

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