Many people enjoy energy drinks regularly, using them for an instant boost when they need a quick pick-me-up, and they might seem harmless. However, they are far from harm-free; that energy usually comes from large quantities of sugar and caffeine and can be extremely damaging to teeth. If you are regularly consuming these drinks, it is worth replacing them with something more tooth-friendly and less damaging to your precious pearly whites.
Why are Energy Drinks So Harmful to Teeth?
The problem with energy drinks is their acidity, even sugar-free ones, as acids are added to make them taste good. For example, ordinary water has a pH level of around 7, which is neutral, whereas an energy drink can have a pH of between 2.5 and 3.3. The lower the pH level, the more acidic the drink. These acids cause erosion, damaging your tooth enamel. These drinks can also affect your stomach.
Energy drinks can contain high levels of sugars. When you drink them, the sugars are converted into acid by bacteria found in dental plaque, a sticky biofilm that continually builds up, coating your tooth surfaces. The higher acidity levels will weaken your tooth enamel. Even though tooth enamel is extremely hard and durable, it can still be gradually eroded by exposure to strong acids. It only takes a few sips of a typical energy drink to reduce the acidity levels in your mouth considerably, and it can take half an hour or longer for these levels to return to normal pH. Your teeth are continually bathed in acid all the time your mouth remains at a lower pH.
During acid erosion, essential minerals such as phosphorus and calcium are removed from tooth enamel. Repeated exposure to these acids can eventually weaken the tooth enamel to such an extent that a cavity develops, allowing harmful bacteria found in the mouth to penetrate the tooth, resulting in decay and infection.
How Do the Acids in Energy Drinks Affect the Teeth and Stomach?
As dentists, we are often asked, “what drinks make your teeth yellow?” The answer is often energy drinks or drinks that contain high amounts of sugar or are naturally acidic. Repeated exposure to acids causes the tooth enamel to become thinner, revealing more of the natural tooth colour in the dentine underneath. The result can be teeth that look yellower and which grow increasingly weak. As the tooth enamel thins, your teeth will most likely feel more sensitive, especially when you have anything hot or cold or very sweet or sour foods. Even breathing in on a cold day could be enough to make your teeth twinge uncomfortably.
The caffeine found in energy drinks can encourage bacterial growth in your mouth. These bacteria will thrive on the sugars, creating acid and causing enamel erosion. Caffeine can also cause bad breath because it sticks to your tongue. Consumption of caffeine has been linked to other harmful oral habits like teeth grinding and clenching, a condition called bruxism, which can damage teeth by wearing them down and even fracturing them. In the worst-case bruxism can cause tooth loss. If you have ever wondered if energy drinks can make your teeth fall out, then the stark answer is yes, without considering the potential impact on your stomach and overall health.
Once an energy drink enters the digestive tract, it can eventually cause damage to your bones. Calcium and phosphorus can be leached from bones to help reduce acidity. A common side-effect of drinking energy drinks is weight gain. These energy drinks can have a high glycaemic load, increasing the risk of developing diabetes or prediabetes. The high caffeine content of some energy drinks can affect your heart health, causing anything from an irregular heartbeat to heart failure.
How to Minimise the Impact of Energy Drinks
Ideally, it’s best to avoid energy drinks completely if you can, but if you want to have them occasionally, make sure you keep an eye on your consumption. When you have an energy drink, use a straw to reduce its contact with your teeth. Have an energy drink at the end of a main meal when your mouth is naturally more acidic and will be producing more saliva. The more saliva you produce, the quicker the mouth will return to a more neutral pH. Another trick is to rinse your mouth with water after drinking an energy drink. Rinsing your mouth will help eliminate any loose excess sugars and restore your mouth’s pH levels more quickly.
Many people think the best thing they can do is to clean their teeth immediately after having an energy drink, but you must wait at least 30 minutes before brushing. If you brush your teeth sooner, your tooth enamel is already softened and more easily eroded, increasing the impact of acid erosion. Waiting allows the enamel to remineralise or re-harden, so some of the minerals removed are redeposited back into your tooth enamel. If it will be a while before you can brush your teeth, chew sugar-free gum to help stimulate saliva flow, helping to protect your teeth.
What Is the Best Drink to Have Instead of Energy Drinks?
The best drink for rehydration is water, and tap water is absolutely fine, especially if it contains fluoride and other useful minerals. You don’t need to spend a fortune on expensive energy drinks, and ensuring you are well hydrated can help naturally fight fatigue and tiredness.
How We Can Help Reduce the Impact of Energy Drinks on Your Teeth
If you are consuming energy drinks and have noticed some worrying symptoms like yellowing teeth, increasing tooth sensitivity and bad gums, make an appointment to come and see us at Tandara Dental Centre. We can assess your teeth and gums carefully and, if necessary, will take dental x-rays to check for signs of cavities before working out a suitable preventative treatment plan to reduce the impact of these harmful drinks.
We may recommend professional fluoride applications, as fluoride can help to re-harden your tooth enamel and relieve other symptoms like tooth sensitivity. If the sugars and acids have eroded your tooth enamel to such an extent that you have lesions or signs of cavities, we can provide restorative treatment to repair your teeth. Regular dental checkups and cleanings help us monitor the condition of your teeth and gums closely and are essential if you consume a lot of energy drinks. Ideally, of course, we will encourage you to quit.