School is back in session again, and that means fall sports are in full swing. At most, if not all, sporting events you will find athletes consuming sports drinks for what they assume are the health benefits. No one wants to get dehydrated in the middle of a game or a marathon, after all. Unfortunately, most sports drinks are largely sugar. That’s why they are so popular! Are there any health benefits from drinking sports drinks? What do they do to your teeth and oral health?
What Are Sports Drinks Made of?
In the supermarket aisle sports drinks are found next to sodas and fruit juices. Because of clever marketing, most people believe that sodas are very unhealthy but that fruit juices and sports drinks are good for you. The truth is that many sports drinks have as much sugar and acid as soda, and fruit juices are also very sugary.
Of course, not all sports drinks are alike, so, as with all things, you should do your research and read the label. If you ask people why they drink sports drinks, they will tell you it’s because they replenish electrolytes that are lost when people exercise heavily for longer periods of time. The reality is that sports drinks contain carbohydrates, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup and sugar. A 12-ounce bottle may contain 21 grams of sugar.
Twenty-one grams equals about 5 teaspoons of sugar. We know what happens when the bacteria in your mouth is fed more sugar. It feasts and releases acids as byproducts of digestion. As a result your teeth and gums suffer in the form of cavities and gingivitis.
Many sports drinks also contain citric acid in large amounts. Citric acid makes flavors pop and extends the shelf life of these products, but it takes a toll on teeth and gums too. It can strip the enamel off your teeth. Sodas are notorious for their acid content, but many sports drinks compete with them for acid content.
Which Drinks Should You Choose?
There are sports drinks on the market that contain little sugar and more of the minerals and electrolytes athletes need on game day. Here is a list of sports drinks that might be better choices for athletes who exercise hard and for long periods of time. Coconut water is also a healthy alternative as it is low in calories and a good source of electrolytes.
A better beverage choice most of the time is plain water. Water is always a great solution to dehydration. Eating a healthy diet will ensure that you get enough of the nutrients and minerals your body needs to maintain itself when it’s stressed by hot weather and exercise.
Dental Associates of West Michigan recommends that if you or your children drink sports drinks regularly, especially the blue, red, and green basic sports drinks found at sporting events everywhere, make a point to brush your teeth more often. If you treat them like sodas in your mind, you will have a better idea of the danger they pose to your teeth.