Protect Your Teeth: Don’t Drink Sugary Sports Drinks!

The ADA NSW branch of the Australian Dental Associaton has released research in August 2015 to celebrate Dental Health Week (3 – 9 August), revealing some disturbing statistics about the state of our teeth.

Many unaware of the risks with sports drinks

The study showed half of active adult Aussies are unaware of the damage that sports drinks can do to their teeth. Even worse, 1 in 3 parents of active children are letting their child drink sugary sports drinks at least once a week, damaging their young teeth.

And in what is the grossest news we?ve heard all week, the study found more than 1 in 3 active NSW residents don?t brush their teeth twice a day (35.5%). 1 in 6 couldn?t remember their last visit to the dentist at all.

Nearly all Australians surveyed (98.9%) said they think they have good oral hygiene, but there?s always more to learn. Let?s take a look at the facts about protecting your teeth, so that you can keep them for your whole life through.

How are sports drinks are harming your teeth?

While 34% of active adults drink sports drinks or workout drinks at least once a week when exercising, they were unaware of the amount of harmful acid in these drinks. According to the ADA and their Rethink Sugary Drink campaign, sports drinks can contain up to 13 teaspoons of sugar – almost as much as the 16 teaspoons in a 600mL bottle of soft drink. Drinking just one sports drink a day for five days in a row can create lasting damage from rapid tooth erosion. The best natural defence against erosion is saliva, but drinking sports drinks daily means saliva does not have enough time to repair the damage.

Tooth erosion leads to cavities and tooth decay. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 3 in 10 Australian adults have untreated tooth decay. 50% of children under 12 years old also have untreated tooth decay in their permanent teeth. Since this trend starts so young, early education and prevention in children is the key.

The ADA research even found that 18% of active adults would not stop drinking sports drinks after they had been told about the permanent tooth damage.

Sports drinks aren?t just bad for your teeth, either. Cancer Council Australia spokesperson Craig Sinclair says, “Like other sugary beverages such as soft drinks and energy drinks, sports drinks can lead to weight gain and increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, some cancers, heart and kidney disease and stroke.”

How much sugar is in your favourite sports drink?

The ADA took a look at many popular sports drinks, and the results are shocking. Listed are the worst offenders for teaspoons of sugar per bottle.

  • Maximus 1L: 19 teaspoons
  • Lucozade Orange 380mL: 13 teaspoons
  • Powerade Berry Ice 600mL: 11 teaspoons
  • Gatorade Fierce Grape 600mL: 9 teaspoons

For other sugary drinks, see the data at

Protecting your teeth when you exercise

What you should drink when you exercise

Water has always been the best rehydration tool. Water is amazing. It has no acid, no sugar, and no calories or kilojoules. It hydrates your muscles and your brain so that you can work out at your best. The fluoride in water even protects your tooth enamel.

You do not need fancy sports drinks that are as loaded with as much sugar as electrolytes. Many sports and workout drinks were designed for elite, endurance athletes to help prevent heat stroke and muscle cramps, but they are not intended for everyday use (Coombs, 2000).

Carry a water bottle and refill it regularly, so that you won?t need to buy a drink while you?re out. Whether you find yourself tempted by sugary drinks or not and whether you?re exercising or sitting at a desk, everyone needs to stay hydrated with water, plain and simple.

If you feel that you must drink sugary sports drinks, drink them through a straw so that less acid and sugar touches your teeth on the way down. You should scull them as quickly as possibly, since drinking them over a period of time (e.g. 1 hour) increases the amount of time that your teeth are exposed to the harmful acid.

Mr Sinclair of the Cancer Council Australia said getting kids to drink less sports drinks was vital for our health as a nation. He said, “We need a range of policies and programs to restrict the sale of sugary drinks in venues popular with young people, and ongoing education about how sugary drinks can affect your health. We want water to become the drink of choice for young people.”

Brushing your teeth

You might think that brushing your teeth immediately after drinking a sports drink is the answer, but the ADA says it?s not. Wait 1 hour after drinking before brushing, to give your tooth enamel time to re-harden after exposure to the acid.

Wear a mouthguard fitted by your dentist

78% of active NSW adults and 53% of active children said they only wear over-the-counter mouthguards to protect their teeth when playing sport. The ADA recommends that you ask your dentist during your next visit to make you a custom-fitted mouthguard.

Don?t wait until it?s too late to protect your teeth! During Dental Health Week (3 – 9 August), ADA and Canstar are encouraging everyone to drink water when you exercise, brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, and book a check-up with your dentist.

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