Study links sports, energy drinks with dental damage

by Jeff Gelski
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CHICAGO — An increase in the consumption of sports and energy drinks, especially among adolescents, is causing irreversible damage to teeth, according to a study published in the May/June issue of General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry. The study said the high acidity levels in the drinks erode tooth enamel, the glossy outer layer of the tooth.

“Young adults consume these drinks assuming that they will improve their sports performance and energy levels and that they are better for them than soda,” said Poonam Jain, lead author of the study and director of community and preventive dentistry at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. “Most of these patients are shocked to learn that these drinks are essentially bathing their teeth with acid.”

The American Beverage Association, Washington, responded to the study with the statement, “This study was not conducted on humans and in no way mirrors reality. The authors used slices of tooth enamel samples from extracted molars and then placed them in petri dishes of liquid for extended periods of time. People do not keep any kind of liquid in their mouths for 15-minute intervals over 5-day periods. Thus, the findings of this paper simply cannot be applied to real life situations.”

The researchers examined the acidity levels in 13 sports drinks and 9 energy drinks. To test the effect of the acidity levels, the researchers immersed samples of human tooth enamel in each beverage for 15 minutes, followed by immersion in artificial saliva for 2 hours. The cycle was repeated four times a day for five days. The samples were stored in fresh artificial saliva at all other times.

The researchers found acidity levels may vary between brands of beverages and flavors of the same brand. They found damage to enamel was evident after five days of exposure to sports or energy drinks although energy drinks showed a significant greater potential to damage teeth than sports drinks.

For other criticisms of the study, the A.B.A. said the absence of saliva in an in vitro (petri dish) model sets up a false situation where decay is far more likely and that drinking four sports or energy drinks a day is not normal consumption.

The A.B.A. added sports drinks provide electrolytes and carbohydrates while energy drinks are not intended for children. A.B.A. member companies do not offer energy drinks for sale in K-12 schools.

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