How energy drinks are eating away at your teeth

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Edward Urtiaga
  • 4th Aerospace Medical Squadron
Tired? Need some energy? Nothing wrong with drinking an energy drink to wake you up right? Wrong!

Energy drinks can inflict irreversible damage on your teeth, not to mention the other harmful effects that they have on the rest of your body. Not only do energy drinks contain a ton of sugar, they also are known to include additives like citric acid. Manufacturers have to add excessive amounts of citric acid in order to lengthen shelf life and enhance flavor.

Citric acid plays another more dangerous role in that it is very effective in eroding your enamel, which is the hardest substance in your body.

A study was conducted by Dr. Poonam Jain at the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine regarding the effects that sports and energy drinks have on enamel. They tested 13 types of sports drinks and 9 different energy drinks. Using extracted molars, the researchers immersed the enamel samples into each energy drink for 15 minutes and then transferred them to artificial saliva for two hours. Since some people can consume four or five energy drinks a day, this processed was completed 5 times every day for five consecutive days. The results were astounding!

The average amount of enamel lost with a sports drink was 1.5 percent, while the average enamel loss with an energy drink was three percent. This may not seem like much, but that percentage of enamel erosion could be detrimental to your teeth.  Remember, this experiment was only conducted for five days. Imagine how much enamel could be lost over the course of a month or year just by energy drinks alone -- not to mention other acidic foods and drinks in one's diet.

So back to the original question. Tired? Need some energy? Here are some suggestions for alternatives that are nowhere near as damaging to your teeth.

First is an adequate night's sleep. However this is sometimes not possible with our busy lives. Another feasible option is consuming black coffee with no sugar. Just one cup can be very effective in increasing mental stimulation and cognitive function. For example, a 16 ounce Red Bull energy drink has about 154 mg of caffeine. Similarly, an eight ounce cup of coffee has around 150 mg of caffeine but without all the added sugars and preservatives. The affects you experience after drinking an energy drink could very well just be a sugar high, which will lead to a crash leaving you feeling tired again.

Although it would be ideal, we are not saying you should never drink an energy drink again. There are ways you can drink them that helps neutralize the harmful acid's effects. One way you can do this is by drinking them fast instead of sipping throughout the day. The reasoning behind this is a process called demineralization. Every time your teeth come in contact with sugars, carbs, or acid (all of which are in energy drinks) the process of demineralization occurs. It takes about 30 minutes after finishing your drink for the saliva pH in your mouth to return to a neutral state. So if you are taking a sip every 10 minutes, your mouth never goes back to a neutral state and your teeth are constantly being attacked.

Another suggestion is to swish with water after every sip. The water helps dilute the acid and reduce the damage that will be incurred.

For more information regarding the effects of food and drink on your teeth, contact the dental clinic at 919-722-1933.