Could Your Sports Drink Be Ruining Your Smile?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As a runner, it isn’t too unusual for me to strap on my fuel belt loaded with four small bottles filled with my all-time favorite sports drink, Accelerade, as I head out for a long run. Not only does a sports drink supply my body with the necessary hydration, it also allows me to replenish the glycogen stores that I will deplete on my long runs, giving me the added energy to continue running.

However, according to research conducted by Dr. Mark Wolff, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Cariology & Comprehensive Care at New York University College of Dentistry, consuming sports drinks over a long period of time can lead to the erosion of tooth enamel for some individuals. It has been noted that as many as 1 in 15 individuals may be affected by this condition which can lead to tooth enamel damage, as well as tooth loss.

In the study, the researchers exposed cow’s teeth to both water and to and various sports drinks. The teeth exposed to the sports drinks over a period of 75-90 minutes showed signs of softened enamel and erosion.

For me, giving up my sports drink is not an option. So what can I do to lessen my risk of developing tooth erosion? Dr. Wolff and his staff recommend reducing one’s intake of sports drinks and to wait at least 30 minutes after consuming the drink before brushing his/her teeth. The reason—the sugar in the sports drinks softens the enamel therefore using a harsh toothpaste will only lead to further tooth damage.

Ironically, this subject has come up on the SparkPeople running boards for quite some time. A few runners have noted that they have seen a sharp increase in tooth decay from those who never had issues before.

Dr. Wolff also suggest that if you, like me, are a frequent consumer of sports drinks, you may want to talk with your dentist to determine if you need to use “an acid-neutralizing remineralizing toothpaste to help re-harden soft enamel."

So the lesson learned is to consume these drinks in moderation and make sure you wait at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth. Also don’t miss your regular dental visits. Your dentist will make sure you are doing all that you need in order to keep your teeth healthy for a lifetime.

Do you consume sports drinks on a regular basis? Were you surprised by the risk of tooth erosion caused from these drinks? Would the outcome of this study give you cause to stop consuming these products?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


Doctors in the UK recommend that people doing heavy physical work in hot conditions eg. construction workers, drink milk as it provides energy in the form of lactose, a natural sugar that does not cause tooth erosion, minerals and fluids that help re-hydration and calcium that strengthens the teeth and bones. Skimmed milk provides more of these items than the higher fat milks. I would think that this applies equally to people exercising.
I think part of the problem with these sports drinks is the type of containers that they are drunk from, mostly being squeezy bottles that concentrate the fluid onto the top of the mouth and the front teeth. Years ago it was discovered that giving young children sweet drinks, including fruit juice, in nursing bottles rotted their teeth. I wouldn't be surprised to find that the sports bottles are doing the same. It is better to stop for a few moments and drink from a screw cap bottle instead of trying to drink "on the run" Report
I know just water isn't enough for workouts over an hour long, but what are some alternatives to sports drinks? What did athletes do before sports drinks were invented? Report
what kills me is watching a few of the students at my school drink this stuff. I cannot believe when I go into the kindergarten class to teach how many of them have fillings because of cavities! Report
I think that marathon runners, professional athletes, and people who exercise for hours a day are the only ones who should be drinking these sports drinks. Everyone else should be fine with water, unless directed otherwise by their doctor. Save your teeth!!! Report
Glad we don't invest in these things! I cannot even imagine strapping 4 drinks to my belt for a run either. That's a LOT of wasted landfill in my mind & wasted money to pollute our earth while some 'fuel' their body. Drinking water before & after workouts should be suffiecient for all. Report
Sports drinks are not for casual consumption. They should be used to replace the electrolytes lost when exercising for an hour or more. Crystal light and other beverages don't have electrolytes or at least not enough to work in a training situation. I would recommend something like "Nuun" which is a tablet you can add to water to create a non-sugar sports drink. It has the sodium, potassium and electrolytes you need to get through long workouts. I'm sure there are other products like this on the market as well.

From a dental hygienist of 25's the sugar that causes decay. It's not how MUCH, it's how OFTEN. The bacteria in your mouth consume the carbs (sugars) and produce an acid that causes decay.........for 30 minutes AFTER you STOP eating/drinking it. And it doesn't matter if it's REFINED SUGAR or "NATURAL" sugar. If you cut up an apple, and snack on it all day, it's still sugar and it can cause the same issues. It doesn't matter if you are eating a few m&ms every 30 minutes, sipping on a soda all day, drinking coffee with sugar all day, or chewing gum all day (hopefully you'll go for the sugar free instead!). It's all the same thing. You're replacing those sugars and keeping those sucky little bacteria happy!

The acids in sodas (etc), can cause erosion of the enamel, just like frequently sucking on a wedge of orange, lemon, or limes can. I've seen pitted enamel on the front teeth (not decay) from doing this. One patient was drinking soda water (no calories) and adding the juice of a lime to it, sipping it frequently. Her anterior teeth were wearing away from the citric acid. She stopped doing this and the erosion stopped.

Gatorade (and it's copies) were designed to replace electolytes and carbohydrates to athletes who lost a lot of fluids exercising (specifically, playing football) us runners who run long training runs and marathons. You don't need it unless you are running/exercising LONG (excesses of an hour -- depending on weather conditions like heat, humidity). They have their place. I see kids who drink it instead of pop, like water. They don't need it. It causes the same problems.......especially if they're not brushing/flossing well.

Add a fluoride rinse (ACT is a common one) to your daily brushing and flossing routine, cut back on the frequency of these drinks, watch the "innocent" sugars (ie "natural"), and you should be ok. Rinse with water after drinking the drinks. Moderation and common sense. Look for the words "fluoride rinse", not just mouthwash. You'll find them in the mouthwash section of your stores. Report
I do not drimk a lot of i, but my son and his three childrendo. I will be telling him about this. Thanks a bunch... Report
I don't do sports drinks, but I do occasionally add the lipton or crystal lite add ins for a flavor change. Just plain water is good for you, has no calories and won't destroy your teeth. Report
What about using gels & chews? They would provide the same benefits, but do they have the same downside? When I'm out biking I tend to mix in a powder with my water. I mix it extremely weak so that may help with the tooth problems as well. Report
For those who drink them, DEFINITELY wait the time. I always wait after I eat or drink anything. You can rinse with water, but wait to brush! It's only going to make tooth problems worse to scrub them immediately. Report
First off, I don't drink sports drinks. For those who do, I'd suggest cleaning their teeth right after drinking it to prevent it from sitting on their teeth. As one who has weak teeth due to meds, it is better to brush often and floss at least 2-3 times per week than to let any kind of food or drink residue on your teeth. So at least try and prevent it by cleaning your teeth as soon as your drink is gone. Report
wow! Good to know to wait 30 mintues before brushing. Thank you Report
I stick with water. It's the only thing that can quince my thirst. I tried a sports drink a number of years ago and I thought it tasted awful! I haven't tried any since. Report
I love sports drinks, especially Gatorade (G2), and Powerade. I have a big problem with dehydration, and these drinks help to keep me hydrated throughout the day.

I usually try to use the "Low-Sugar" varieties, and I am wondering if they have the same effects on teeth....if not, then that might be a good alternative too ^.^ Report
I never drink sport drinks. I never liked them. Glad I didn't. Sodas were my thing until last March... I've had about 4 or 5 sodas since then. Woo Hoo! :-) Report
I don't drink sport drinks my evil drink is soda..which I know is not good the teeth either. Report
Personally, I am a water girl. I have done a few triathalons. I tried drinking the sports drink for my 2nd tri even during the training period, but my body did not like it one bit. I do better eating some peanut butter after the swim. The only time my body can sustain a sports drink is when I have the flu. Report
I'm starting to run distance, and hate that goo--but frankly, I really feel a calorie deficit about an hour into a run. Yesterday, I felt famished--and I had eaten a banana right before my run. I'd love to hear what similar runners do in this case--sports drinks have the cals, and sorry, if you don't run distance, you don't know how it feels to just "stick with water." Sports drinks do have a place--and no, not in the big cup holder in your car! Report
"Sports drinks can be helpful to athletes who are exercising at a high intensity for 60 minutes or more. Fluids supplying 60 to 100 calories per 8 ounces helps to supply the needed calories required for continuous performance. It's really not necessary to replace losses of sodium, potassium and other electrolytes during exercise since you're unlikely to deplete your body's stores of these minerals during normal training. If, however, you find yourself exercising in extreme conditions over 3 or 5 hours (a marathon, Ironman or ultramarathon, for example) you may likely want to add a complex sports drink with electrolytes."

I personally stick to plain water (except on the rare occasion that I'm hung over!), but I have a few friends who have run marathons, done triathlons, etc., and they needed the sports drinks just to keep up with hydration+calories when they were in the late stages of training - and yes they drank water, too.

I just wanted to point out that many people who only exercise moderately don't need "sugary" sports drinks, but they do have their place in the world, and there seems to be a lot of generalization going on in the comments that they're bad or that they're a "waste of money" or that they're wholly ineffective. My guilty pleasure may be someone else's "waste of money/time/efforts," which is why I take offense to blanket statements like that, even if it's not an activity or pleasure I personally enjoy. You spend your money on your crap, I'll spend my money on my crap, thx.

This was a good post, though - great information to mull over, and discuss with my athlete friends, although many people were right on target - sugar being bad for your teeth is not a new discovery. It's good to keep these things in people's minds, though, because advertising can be so persuasive without ever including facts! Also, the information about waiting 30 minutes after drinking was news to me, and it's a good detail to know. Report
When I was in high school and middle school ALL the boys used to drink sports drinks like crazy. I guess in some respects, it is just as bad as soda (for your teeth).
BUT, it makes sense..i mean, sugar/salt on your teeth is sugar/salt on your teeth..

If you have any teeth sensitivity, you could ask your dental hygienist for MI PASTE. My "mother-in-law" is one, and she recommended it to me when my teeth were sensitive. :) Report
I don't drink that stuff it's water for me only. I don't buy it at all b/c if I do then my kids tend to drink sports drinks first before they drink water. Report
I don't drink sport drinks but my son does. Thanks for the heads up on this. I will ask our dentist about this at his next check up. Report
I only drink water - don't need the sugary drinks. Report
I don't use a sports drink but I sometimes give water with a fruit flavor in it to my grandchildren. Is there any harm in this? Report
Hmmm, good to know. I personally don't really like anything outside water, but my step-kids pretty much live off these. I may have to watch that with them a little more and pass the info on to their mom. Report
I only drink water also. I read long ago that the potassium ( one of the electrolytes) in sodas is the cause for the loss of enamel on teeth! Sugar is something new to me!!!

My drug in my nebulizer also thins the enamel on my teeth, for which I am required to ONLY rinse my mouth well immediately after the inhalation treatment. I have noticed where the drug fumes hit the plastic cover, my writing in permanent magic markers, comes off when rubbed. But, if left alone, in spite of leaving it in water as I am supposed to, the writing stays there!

I wonder if rinsing your mouth versus brushing your teeth would also help sports drink consumers? Report
I hate water, so most of my liquid consumption is actually walmart brand make-it-yourself propel, essentially. Do you know what "counts" as a sports drink? It's just water, sugar, and b-vitamins, as near as I can tell. At only 25 calories a bottle, it doesn't really have as much stuff as many of the sports drinks out there. Report
I don't drink power drinks and don't drink soda.I only drink fruit juices.(naturals) Report
I've never been a huge fan of sports drinks, but this was very interesting. On a side note, I saw someone mention about drinking through a straw. My Aunt's dentist told her to not drink anything through a straw as it increases the flow of the fluid and will damage her teeth with the additional pressure. Report
Just to clarify... IT'S NOT JUST SPORTS DRINKS!! It's really the same for anything containing citric acid, which can be in a TON of products - not just sports drinks, but many sodas, drink mixes like Kool-Aide or Crystal Light, flavored teas, fruits, some salad dressings, and a bunch of other surprising places. You really have to be careful about checking labels on everything! I do not drink sports drinks or any beverage with sugar whatsoever, but I know I still get a lot of citric acid.

This means that if you are eating a healthy lunch of decaf flavored tea, salad with raspberry vinaigrette and an orange, it can still do bad things to your tooth enamel.

Using a drinking straw helps. I also use an enamel strengthening toothpaste. Report
Not surprised at all... the orthodontist & the pediatrician told me this over 10 years ago because a lot of kids chug these drinks and their baby teeth rot out pretty quickly. I was told to water the drinks down and that unless kids are really doing strenous activity like marathon running, they really don't need them. The other key point is to rinse the mouth with clear water after consuming them.... Unfortunately, my electrolytes were dangerously low because I was drinking too much water - 10 glasses a day- and ended up having to drink two G2's a day for a few weeks to build them back up again... If it's not one thing, it's another....

thanks for bringing this great topic to everyone's attention!! Report
I don't drink these and probably never will. It doesn't surprise me that these drinks lead to enamel erosion and tooth decay, but it does surprise me that, knowing that, people would continue to consume these. My dentist keeps a soda bottle, emptied of its liquid content but filled with the amount of sugar which would have been found in the soda, in his treatment room. It's a small but sobering reminder to think about what you're drinking. Report
Hey everyone!

I just want to add that while there are side effects to these drinks for your teeth, if you are an endurance athlete, especially when the weather is warm and/or you have a high sweat rate, these drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, Accelerade) are essential in replacing the very important electrolytes in your body that help control the electrical impulses.

These drinks have a place in our refueling and re-hydrating regimen. Just be sure to wait 30 minutes after drinking and then brush your teeth. Not too sure about Vitamin Water or Propel but look at your ingredient list. If there is no sugar listed, you should be fine.

I hope this clarifies things!
Is Vitamin Water considered a sports drink? Report
I don't drink sports drinks, but our Dentist always talks to us about the effects of drinking these and other drinks. Report
I wonder if using a straw would improve the odds. Report
Doesn't apply to me since I drink only water day in and day out. However, I think that people already knew that sugar in these types of drinks are bad for your teeth and health. Report
My husband was advised to drink sports drinks to help with his dropping blood pressure while exercising. (POTTS Syndrome) I will share this information with him. Report
I don't drink sports drinks, but I found it interesting that concidering all the good hype, they have somthing harmful. This goes with anything I suppose, and like everything, needs to be taken in moderation. Report
I do not particularly like sports drinks but will have one after a long, strenuous hike as it seems to help me recover faster. Report
Thanks for the article! I rarely drink sports drinks because of our budget, but especially during training and before the race, our local grocery had Powerade on sale (sponsored the race) and Vitamin Water on sale, so I'd try it. BUT, since I already have tooth enamel issues, I'll be ditching those asap!
Thanks again! Report
Good info...not a concern for me as I don't drink these types of drinks, but I'm sure that those do appreciate this info.

I don't like sports drinks. This gives me even more reason to stay away. Report
I don't do sports drinks but I found it interesting to wait 30 minutes to brush teeth.......and oh yes.....the vision of a cow drinking a sports drink.......priceless........milksh
ake anyone? Report
ummm....maybe I missed something here, but that sugar causes tooth decay isn't a new discovery. Whether the sugar is in gum, candy, soda, or sports drinks it still has the same effect. I think there is plenty of evidence that "sports drinks" (with or without added sugar) are worthless at best, and harmful at worst. How is it any different from drinking a soda to wash down your multi-vitamin tablet? I think you teeth, the rest of your body, and your wallet would be better off without them. Report
I used to drink Gatorade, but now I stick to water, mostly due to calories, but glad to know that I'm reaping even more benefits! Report
Good to know, I am drinking about 10 glesses of water and a bottol of Gatorate daily, I like but I will try to stop it..... Report
Great info. I plan on passing it on to parents who give their children sports drinks at practice. Report
Not surprised. But I don't drink sports drinks. I stick to water. Report
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.