Warning for sports drink lovers

April 23, 2009 7:40:40 PM PDT
Drinking plenty of water when exercising is important. However, instead of water, many people choose sports drinks to help to replenish lost fluids. Now, new dental research says drinking too many sports drinks may erode teeth. Dr. Mark Woolf of the NYU Dental School has tested what sports drinks can do to teeth.

"The question about sports drinks is should they substitute drinking water?" asks Dr. Woolf.

And sports drinks are everywhere, and are especially popular at health clubs.

Phyllis Sacks works out about six days a week at Equinox Gym and she makes sure her sports drink is close at hand.

"I enjoy the taste. I find it quenches my thirst. It works for me," said Phyllis.

It works for Cedric Cosiac, too.

"It has electrolytes. It's good stuff," says Cedric.

Both these fitness buffs say they've never had a problem with quenching their thirsts with sports drinks.

But Dr. Woolf says sports drinks are crossing the line, becoming a beverage of choice for many, often becoming a substitute for water.

"That exposes the tooth constantly to acidity," says Dr. Woolf.

So, how do water and sports drinks measure up on an acid test?

Dental student Glenn Canares tested some liquids for acid. Water scored nearly seven, which is neutral. Coffee came in at 4.6 and sports drinks measured a 2.6. A low number on the acidity scale, means a liquid is more acidic. The high acidity in sports drinks is bad news for dentin, the part of the tooth that's exposed when teeth recess.

"It's the root structure of our teeth. It's softer. It's more sensitive to acid exposure," says Dr. Woolf.

Dr. Woolf also soaked a cow's tooth in a sports drink, and then used a high-tech diamond point stress test to test the tooth's dentin.

"The hardness of the tooth surface is one half as hard as it was when we soaked it in solution, and that means it's more susceptible to brushing, more susceptible to wear from rough foods we eat and that could create additional tooth damage," says Dr. Woolf.

Erosion can also make teeth more sensitive to cold liquids.

"That's why drinking these drinks during the course of the day is not a healthy habit," says Dr. Woolf.

It's advised to drink sports drinks in moderation. When they are consumed, people should wait at least a half hour before brushing teeth to give saliva a chance to help to re-harden the area.