Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sports Drinks and Teeth

When I was in grade-school, every student knew in their mind that they could instantly be turned from a mediocre kid in gym class, to a professional athlete, simply by consuming a sports drink like Gatorade, PowerAde, or the carbonated drink All-Sport. They were delicious, thirst-quenching, gave us energy, and the pros drank them so they must be amazing!

Today, the number of these sports-drinks on the market are astounding! Gatorade itself has several different beverage products (Gatorade G, No Excuses, Shine On, Be Tough, Bring It, Focus, G2). There are also 'sports waters' including Gatorade's Propel Fitness Water!

Why am I bringing these up? Because the one thing they have in common is they contain sugar (sucrose and glucose-fructose). While you or your kids are fighting off your thirst with these drinks, the sugar is soaking into the teeth (figuratively speaking). Because you're exercising, there's decreased salivary flow in your mouth, meaning the sugar isn't naturally washed off your teeth as well (or as quickly) as it would if you were at rest. This allows the bacteria and germs to take over and start the early processes of tooth decay (metabolizing the sugar and producing acids on the tooth surface). What's worse, is these beverages (like most soft-drinks) are acidic, which promotes an even more suitable environment for the germs to thrive!

Now, I enjoy these beverages, and I think many athletes would agree that they help to keep their energy levels high during sporting events. What I am suggesting to you, the parent or athlete, is to take measures to prevent the progression of tooth decay processes.

One suggestion is to have a separate bottle of water that you can use during a sports event to rinse with after consuming the sports drink. Glug-glug (sports drink), glug-glug or rinse-rinse (water). This will help flush excess sugar off your teeth. Another suggestion is to rinse out your mouth after the sporting event with a antiseptic mouthwash (rinsing for at least 30 seconds). This will help remove the excess sugar, and kill many of the germs on the tooth surfaces. Of course, before bed at night, go through your regular routine of brushing your teeth gently for two minutes, followed by flossing all of your teeth.

Check out these two research articles (one, and two) discussing how exposure to soft-drinks (such as sports drinks and colas) roughens up the surface enamel of teeth. Yikes!

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