In a recent study, the researchers found that prolonged consumption of sports drinks may be linked to a condition known as erosive tooth wear, in which acids eat away the tooth's smooth hard enamel coating and trickle into the bonelike material underneath, causing the tooth to soften and weaken. The condition affects one in 15 Americans and can result in severe tooth damage and even tooth loss if left untreated.
Left: A tooth that was immersed in a sports drink shows signs of
erosion caused by acid. A tooth that was immersed only in
water (at right) shows no signs of erosion.
Credit: Dr. Mark Wolff, Professor and Chairman of the Department
of Cariology&Comprehensive Care at New York University
College of Dentistry
"This is the first time that the citric acid in sports drinks has been linked to erosive tooth wear," said Dr. Mark Wolff, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Cariology & Comprehensive Care at New York University College of Dentistry, who led the study. The findings were presented today at the annual meeting of the International Association for Dental Research in Miami.
Dr. Wolff's research team cut in half cow teeth, which were used for the study because of their close resemblance to human teeth. They immersed one half of the specimens in a sports drink, the other half in water, then compared the two halves and discovered that the one exposed to the sports drink displayed a significant amount of erosion and softening.
"Five teeth were immersed in each drink for 75 to 90 minutes to simulate the effects of sipping on sports drinks over the course of the day," Dr. Wolff said. The researchers evaluated the effects of a range of top-selling sports drinks on the cow teeth.
According to Dr. Wolff, brushing teeth immediately after consuming a sports drink can compound the problem of tooth erosion, because softened enamel is very susceptible to the abrasive properties of toothpaste.
"To prevent tooth erosion, consume sports drinks in moderation, and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth, to allow softened enamel to re-harden," Dr. Wolff advised. "If you frequently consume sports drinks, ask your dentist if you should use an acid-neutralizing remineralizing toothpaste to help re-harden soft enamel."
Dr. Wolff's coinvestigators on the study were Mr. Michael Rice, a student at the University of the Pacific Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco; Mr. Glenn Canares, a student at the NYU College of Dentistry; and Dr. Mitchell S. Pines, a Clinical Professor of Biomaterials & Biomimetics at the NYU College of Dentistry.