FRIDAY, April 3, 2009 (Health.com) — Sports drinks can rehydrate you after a workout, but they also may wreak havoc on your teeth. Prolonged consumption of these types of beverages could lead to erosive tooth wear, according to a study presented at the International Association for Dental Research in Miami on Friday.
And a second study presented at the meeting suggests that drinking white wine can be a problem too: It may lead to stained teeth.
Mark Wolff, DDS, PhD, professor and chairman of the department of cardiology and comprehensive care at New York University College of Dentistry, and his colleagues immersed cow teeth (because of their similarity to human teeth) in either water or a top-selling sports drink—including Vitamin Water, Life Water, Gatorade, Powerade, and Propel Fit Water. After soaking for 75 to 90 minutes, to replicate consuming a beverage over time, researchers measured the strength of the teeth.
Previous studies found that sports beverages can damage tooth enamel—even more so than soda—due to a combination of acidic components, sugars, and additives. This research looked specifically at the way sports drinks affected dentin, the dental tissue under enamel that determines the size and shape of teeth.
All of the tested sports drinks caused softening of the dentin, and Gatorade and Powerade caused significant staining. The researchers used cut-in-half teeth in the study, which exposed the dentin.
“Sports drinks are very acidic drinks. When they become your soft drink, your fluid, then you run the real risk of very significant effects, such as etching the teeth and actually eroding the dentin if you have exposed roots,” says Dr. Wolff.
Any beverage that has high acid content can weaken the enamel, making the teeth more susceptible to bacteria that can sneak into the cracks and crevices in the teeth. Sugar can exacerbate the situation, encouraging the bacterial growth, according to Kimberly Harms, DDS, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. “Sugar is bad, and acid is bad, but many of these [sports] drinks have both. The combination causes tooth decay,” says Dr. Harms.
Dr. Wolff says adults shouldn’t choose a sports drink as their everyday beverage, but Dr. Harms says it’s more important for younger people to avoid excess intake. “The group I’m most concerned with are the high schoolers and teenagers, because they carry the drinks around school with them.”