Published on November 20, 2017, Updated on November 20, 2017
Sports drinks may take away your dehydration, but what do they do to your teeth? Millions of children in the United States choose sports drinks such as Gatorade as their beverage of choice to rehydrate. Sports drinks could be damaging your child’s teeth, whereas water doesn’t. Sports drinks generally contain high amounts of sugar. Sugar is one of the components needed to make plaque—that acidic substance that erodes away your tooth enamel. Every time you eat or drink something sugary, you are providing the food that plaque needs to thrive. Sports drinks are chalked full of this sugar to give children energy and to add to the taste of the drink. Many sports drinks also contain acidic substances such as citric acid. This too can erode your tooth enamel. Learn about sports drinks, what they contain, and how they could be hurting your child’s teeth!
Tooth decay is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases among children and adults-. That fact comes from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Other studies show that about 91% of Americans have tooth decay, meaning that they have had cavities or currently have cavities. Many people will have cavities, but many will also not know that they do because they don’t see the dentist often enough. This is alarming because you only have one set of permanent teeth. Once those teeth have decayed and fallen out, you must seek out synthetic ways to restore your smile, such as through custom-made teeth.
Tooth decay happens every single day. Even though it is so prevalent, it is 100% avoidable with proper oral hygiene habits. When you eat, the sugars in the foods and drinks you ingest mix with bacteria in your mouth. This creates a sticky, acidic substance called plaque. That plaque sticks to the surface of your teeth and slowly erodes away your tooth enamel. With enough time (and without being brushed away), that plaque will create openings in your tooth and seep inside. This is when it starts to decay your tooth and a cavity forms. Children are especially prone to cavities because they don’t brush their teeth enough (or haven’t been taught how to properly do so) and they eat lots of food containing sugar. Sports drinks is one such area where they are getting that sugar.
When it comes to sports, athletes need to stay hydrated to stay healthy and keep going. No matter if your child is in their late teens or early childhood, the beverage of choice is usually sports drinks. Sports drinks provide much-needed electrolytes when exercising, but sports drinks are also chocked full of sugar, which is something you don’t want. Sugar in sports drinks and other sources such as juice can fill a belly but harm the teeth significantly. The amount of sugar in some of these drinks are even more than 1-2 candy bars. You can literally drink several candy bars worth of sugar in one sitting and not even realize it.
The biggest concern about sports drinks is their sugar content. Sugar is the major food source for plaque. The more sugar you eat, the more plaque your mouth makes, and the higher your risk if for tooth decay. This is especially concerning for children, as their drink of choice for sports and other activities is generally tasty sports drinks over water. Water, however, should be the drink of choice as it is calorie-free, sugar-free, and your body needs it to survive!
As adults, it’s easier to keep the teeth healthy, as oral health habits have usually been established for quite some years. However, for children, they must learn all the right habits to keep their teeth healthy and clean. According to the American Heart Association, men should not have more than 38 grams of sugar per day. For women, they should not have more than 25 grams. Children should have even less than that—the least amount you can give them. In fact, sugar is not a necessary nutrient in the human diet.
Along with limiting your sugar intake, make sure you are getting your vitamins. Your teeth need vital nutrients to stay strong—even if those teeth are only baby teeth. A child will have those baby teeth for several years, and they need them to stay strong so the teeth and gums that hold them are sturdy. We recommend dental sealants for children and fluoride treatments to help keep the teeth healthy.
Dental sealants protect your teeth from plaque. We recommend that all children receive dental sealants when the permanent teeth begin to grow in. This is a plastic coating that Dr. Hardy applies to the outer layer of your teeth. Many teeth, and especially the molars, will have fine grooves or pits that can trap food particles that can’t be removed by your toothbrush bristles or through mouthwash. This is essential a cavity waiting to happen.
With a dental sealant, we paint a plastic coating over the tooth and seal off all of these fine grooves and pits so food won’t become stuck. Fluoride is also very beneficial for a child’s teeth if they drink sports drinks often. Each child should receive at least 2 fluoride treatments a year to keep their teeth healthy. Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens teeth and helps them to become more resistant to decay. You can protect yourself and your child from getting cavities by drinking fluoridated water and brush at least twice a day with fluoride-fortified toothpaste..
At Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, our goal is keep your mouth healthy and your smile bright. Your child’s home efforts coupled with coming in to see us often for cleanings and exams can help your child keep a healthy smile for life. If you would like to know more about your child’s oral health, what sports drinks do to teeth, or if you need to schedule their first visit, call Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics today at (720) 887-6003!