Parents should be particularly concerned about their children’s oral health as they transition into their teen years. As a parent, it’s important to realize that diet plays a key role in teen oral care. In that case, it’s better to focus on preventive care and stay informed about what your child eats and drinks. This ensures good oral health as your child further transitions into adulthood. One concern you should be aware of when it comes to teen oral care is the excessive consumption of sports drinks. At one point or another, many parents have asked themselves, “Are sports drinks affecting my kids’ teeth?” Here’s what you need to know regarding this crucial question.
They Have a High Acid Content
According to a scientific journal on Researchgate, many sports drinks are based on acidic fruits that cause the erosion of tooth enamel. A study was done to prove the potential erosive qualities of specific sports drinks. This study tested five readily available sports drinks with acidic pHs to analyze their ability to erode enamel. The results were then cross-checked with the results obtained from using orange juice. These results showed that many of the sports drinks tested were corrosive, thus showing the link between progressive tooth surface loss and regular consumption of fruit-based sports drinks.
When looking at teen oral care, sugar isn’t the only dietary concern, especially if your child has developed an affinity for sports drinks. Many experimental studies show enamel loses its mineral content when exposed to several sports drinks. Energy drinks are even more harmful. According to a study published in General Dentistry, as much as sports drinks have erosive properties, exposure to an energy drink like Rockstar, Monster®, and Red Bull®, resulted in double the enamel loss (3.1%) compared to exposure to sports drinks like Powerade®, Gatorade®, and Propel® (1.5%). The worrying thing is that energy and sports drinks are often marketed as part of a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise.
While your teen may hardly notice the erosive effects of sports drinks, if they continue drinking them regularly, the enamel will eventually wear away enough to cause all sorts of problems. The common issue caused by tooth erosion is increased pain or sensitivity when consuming something too hot, cold, or sweet. Tooth erosion also increases the risk of cavities, damage to dentin, and abscesses which can eventually result in tooth loss. Sadly, once your enamel erodes, it can’t be reversed.
They Contain A Lot of Sugar
Although sports drinks tend to have a lower sugar content than energy drinks and soda, the amount can still be substantial enough to interfere with teen oral care if consumption is excessive. The truth is that sports drinks still contain a concerning amount of simple sugars. Drinking too many of these increases the risk of dental caries and also causes other health issues like obesity/overweight, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. When your teen consumes a large amount of sports drinks, this feeds the bacteria in the mouth. When these bacteria thrive, they produce acidic products that result in severe tooth decay and rotten teeth.
Besides that, drinking high-sugar beverages increases the risk of gum disease. When gum disease worsens to periodontitis, it can have a negative impact on overall health. Dental experts have long proven a direct connection between tooth decay and eating too much sugar. After spending all day chugging down sports drinks that have a large amount of sugar, these sugar molecules will mix with the saliva and form plaque that deposits on the teeth. When left on the teeth for too long, plaque can dissolve enamel, and that’s how your teen might end up with cavities. Hence, one of the best ways to control bacteria and plaque on teeth is to teach your child to limit their intake of sports drinks.
At first, it might seem as if drinking sports drinks regularly is a harmless habit your teen likes to indulge in. This is perhaps what makes sports drinks so dangerous. They cause a great amount of damage and irreversible harm. You may be unaware of most of the initial damage if you’re not careful about taking your teen for regular dental visits. By the time the issue starts developing, the damage is already done. That’s why you should never underestimate the harmful effects of sports drinks on your kids’ teeth, especially where consumption has become an ingrained habit.
They Can Potentially Stain Teeth
As mentioned, most drinks currently on the market are highly acidic. These acidic drinks wear away the enamel by first softening it. When the tooth enamel becomes softer, it stains easily. Thus, sports drinks not only weaken the teeth but can have a significant staining effect. This is particularly true of darker-colored beverages with added pigments or dyes. The last thing you want is for your teen to experience premature staining. While it’s true that teeth eventually become discolored due to the natural aging process, your teen is only approaching the prime of their youth. At this stage, it’s important for your child to have a bright, attractive, and healthy smile.
For starters, we live in a world where books are judged by their covers, so it’s essential for your child to look good and feel good about themselves. Young people tend to worry and obsess over their appearance if they notice they have brown spots on their teeth or some other cosmetic dental issue that can seriously affect their self-esteem and confidence. If you want to encourage your child to drop their sports drink habit and start focusing on better teen oral care, explain to them how healthy teeth can have a dramatic positive effect on their overall appearance.
Help them to understand that discolored and yellow teeth are a common but preventable dental issue among kids. Tell them about the ingredients in many sports drinks and provide alternatives that might be better for their oral health. If some staining has already occurred, you can always explore teeth whitening solutions, preferably those provided by licensed dentists.
How to Prevent the Damage
Now that you know the negative impact sports drinks can have on your kids’ teeth, the next step is knowing how to prevent or minimize the damage. On further analysis, it appears that the erosive effects of sports drinks mainly depend on exposure. In experimental studies that were carried out, the damage to tooth enamel was more pronounced with increased exposure. Thus, if your teen isn’t willing to completely give up their consumption of sports drinks, you can encourage them to drink the bottle all at once instead of taking small sips over a long period of time.
Once they chug the whole bottle down, they should rinse their mouth with clean water to wash away the acidity and any leftover sugars that might be feeding the bacteria. However, they should wait roughly an hour to allow the enamel to harden before brushing their teeth. In addition, you should encourage your child to only use sports drinks for the purpose they were intended. Since sports drinks are designed to replenish electrolytes and rehydrate, they should only be consumed after a period of intense activity or heavy workouts. This limits the frequency of consumption and ensures the teeth are not constantly exposed to the harmful effects of sports drinks. Other tips to limit the damage caused by sports drinks are to use a straw to minimize contact with teeth, buy low acid or low sugar sports drinks, and dilute sports drinks with water.
The best way to prevent the damage caused by sports drinks is to avoid them altogether. There are many healthy alternatives to consider, such as coconut water or DIY sports drinks. You can easily make your own sports drink at home that incorporates natural flavors and will do a better job of keeping your child refreshed.
Why Do Kids Love Sports Drinks?
According to Reuters Health, over 50% of American high school students consume sports drinks at least once a week, and the number keeps getting higher and higher. The question is, why do kids prefer these drinks when they are not a good part of teen oral care? Well, it seems like many brands have selected teens to be the target market in their aggressive marketing campaigns. The message they send is that sports drinks are healthy because they help rehydrate and replenish the electrolytes lost during intense physical activity. The question you should ask yourself as a parent is, “Why would my child need sports drinks when good ol’ water will do the trick?
Many doctors recommend that people drink plenty of water throughout the day, and they recommend avoiding sugary drinks. However, it’s not surprising that many children find sports drinks appealing. After all, sugar-sweetened drinks are popular, and because sports drinks are marketed as a healthier alternative, it’s easy for teens to justify their consumption. Not to mention that the aggressive advertising and marketing tactics used by sports drink brands actually work. Therefore, your teen might find themselves gravitating toward an easily-available sports drink to quench the truth.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, research has shown that sports drinks might be beneficial to adult athletes. That said, keep in mind that this research is not conclusive, and some research even shows no benefits for adult athletes. When it comes to children and young people, the research is lacking because they sweat at highly variable rates. The only condition where the consumption of sports drinks might help prevent dehydration is in a monitored environment after the children have been engaged in vigorous exercise for over an hour. Otherwise, there’s usually no need for children or teens engaged in routine or play-based physical activity to consume sports drinks.
Consult Your Dentist for More Advice
There are various concerns regarding teen oral care, and if you want to give your child the best chance at good oral health as they develop into an adult, you should also enlist the help of a reputable and experienced dentist. The right dentist should be able to keep you informed while helping your child develop the right oral hygiene practices. Many teenagers struggle with poor dietary habits, and drinking too many sports drinks can be a major part of the problem. Your dentist will explain the dangers of sports drinks to your teen’s oral health, such as the high acid content that attacks tooth enamel.
The good thing about consulting your dentist for advice and taking your child for regular visits is that it’s a great solution that can help address other oral health concerns that teens face. For instance, teens that are dealing with eating disorders may show signs such as dental erosion that the dentist can easily detect. Similarly, if your child has a habit of chewing on objects, wants to get an oral piercing, smokes using tobacco products, or has poor dental habits, having a dental professional speak to them might encourage better choices. However, it’s up to parents to help their children develop the habit of visiting the dentist regularly for checkups.
Teen oral care is essential to your child’s development. The excessive consumption of sports drinks can have a detrimental effect on teen health, yet they’re often overlooked. The problem is that if this issue is not addressed, it can cause problems well into adulthood. Therefore, if you have a teenager, prioritizing teen oral care is one of the best things you can do to protect their natural teeth. Remember, we all get one set of natural teeth, and the damage might not be reversible if your teen’s teeth are constantly exposed to the high acidic and sugar content in sports drinks. Educating you and your teen about the effects of sports drinks on oral health is a great investment that reduces future health costs and keeps your teen’s smile healthy and beautiful. Contact Smilez Pediatric Dental Group today if you would like to get started by talking to an experienced and reputable dentist.