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Are sports drinks bad for your teeth?

You may see athletes in advertisements with sports drinks on the sidelines or taking a swig before a big game.

But what’s really in those bottles, and are they good for your oral health?

Sports drinks can help keep you hydrated and replenish important minerals you lose when you sweat.

But beyond the electrolytes and hydration, there are some ingredients that could wreak havoc on your teeth.

Before reaching for your favorite sports drinks after your next workout, it’s best to know what you’re getting in the bottle.

Below are the pros and cons of sports drinks and how they affect your oral health.

The pros of sports drinks

Sports drinks can help replenish the water and other important minerals you lose when you sweat. And one of the main things you lose when you sweat are electrolytes.

Electrolytes help the muscles and nerves in your body stay balanced and run optimally. An intense workout can cause you to lose electrolytes through your sweat.

Too few electrolytes in your body can lead to dehydration, nerve spasms, and cause your body to cramp.

What’s in the bottle?

Sports drinks often contain the 7 most common types of electrolytes that are vital to the body:

  • Sodium (Na+)
  • Chloride (Cl-)
  • Potassium (K+)
  • Magnesium (Mg++)
  • Calcium (Ca++)
  • Phosphate (HPO4–)
  • Bicarbonate (HCO3-)

While replenishing these chemicals can be helpful, there are other ingredients in your sports drink that aren’t great for your oral health.

The cons of sports drinks

When tested in the lab, results showed that sports drinks contain high levels of sugar and acids, which can lead to cavities.

Further studies found that sports drinks can be so acidic, they can corrode your tooth enamel down to the dentin, which is the layer beneath your enamel.

That’s bad news for your teeth, considering your tooth enamel is the hardest surface to crack in your entire body!

Sports drinks and your oral health

The acid in sports drinks makes your teeth more vulnerable to bacteria, which feeds off the excess sugar in these drinks.

Bacteria can then sneak into the cracks of your tooth enamel and cause tooth decay.

Untreated tooth decay can lead to cavities, gum disease or even periodontal disease.

The softening of your tooth dentin also makes your teeth more susceptible to stains — from both the bright colored dye in sports drinks and other staining drinks like wine and tea.

And when your tooth enamel becomes thin and fragile, your teeth can become sensitive to hot or cold temperatures. Nothing’s as disappointing as having sensitive teeth when you take the first bite of an ice cream cone!

Protecting your teeth from sports drinks

Although sports drinks aren’t great for your teeth, you may not experience much damage to your oral health if you enjoy them in moderation.

Here’s what you can do to protect your teeth while still enjoying the occasional sports drink after an intense workout:

  • Sip slowly to let your saliva neutralize the acid of the drink.
  • Rinse your teeth with plain water or mouthwash once you’re finished.
  • Wait 30 minutes before brushing your teeth — this keeps you from spreading the acid across your teeth and increasing your chance of tooth decay.
  • Use a straw if possible to keep the sports drink from coming into contact with your teeth.

Tooth-friendly alternatives to sports drinks

Besides sports drinks, there are other options for replenishing important chemicals and staying hydrated post-workout.

Bananas, watermelon juice and coconut water have all been identified as lower-sugar alternatives to sports drinks.

These drinks and snacks help rehydrate your muscles and decrease your risk of soreness the next day, without the acid and supplemental sugar of sports drinks.

At the end of the day, water is the most natural and healthy hydrating drink that supports your muscles, nerves, and every other system in your body. Plus, water is great for your oral health, too.

If you’re an athlete, you may spend time in the pool or start your day off with vitamins. But do you know how these things may be affecting your oral health?

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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.

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