Dental experts say the high acidity in the popular drinks can damage tooth enamel.
Chances are you’ve already gotten the message that overly sweet drinks can lead to tooth decay.
But what about highly acidic drinks?
Looks like that warning may have fallen through the cracks.
“A lot of people very proudly come into my dental office or the clinic at the dental school and say ‘You’ll be so proud of me. I’ve given up sodas. All I drink now are sports and energy drinks,’” said Poonam Jain, BDS, MS, MPH, vice dean for clinical education, operation, and community partnerships at the A.T. Still University Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health.
Jain told Healthline she has to find a way to diplomatically tell those patients, “Good move, however, those are no better.”
The issue has come to light recently after a British man posted photos online of his rotting teeth, which he says were damaged by his addiction to energy drinks.
His story hasn’t yet been verified, but the posts have reignited warnings from dental experts.
In fact, Jain began sounding the alarm years ago that energy and sports drinks may not be as healthy as you think.
Seven years ago, Jain was the lead researcher on a team at Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine.
The researchers studied 22 beverages popular with young adults. They looked at what effect the 13 sports drinks and 9 energy drinks had on tooth enamel.
“We found the acidity was two times higher in energy drinks than it was for sports drinks,” Jain said.
“The lower the pH, the greater the potential for losing enamel from your teeth,” she added.
“Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, much harder than bone,” Jain said. “But the hardest substance in the human body dissolves in these highly acidic drinks.”
How does that happen?
First, she said your saliva is roughly a pH of 6.8 or 7, which is considered neutral.
Jain said researchers found that even a small amount of a highly acidic drink can send your saliva’s pH plummeting.
“You take a single sip of this drink and your saliva could potentially go down to 2 on the pH scale,” Jain said.
“It takes the human body approximately 30 minutes to buffer the saliva back to a normal pH,” she said. “For those 30 minutes, your teeth are essentially bathed in an acidic environment, in acid.”
“But you don’t stop at a single sip. You go on to drink that can, or bottle, or glass,” she added.
“I think there is a false sense of security about going to these drinks,” Jain said. “They sound so much healthier than drinking a soda.”
The American Beverage Association, however, says tooth decay and other dental problems are more complex than just a canned or bottled drink.
“No single food or beverage is a factor for enamel loss and tooth decay,” a statement from the organization to Healthline says. “Individual susceptibility to both dental cavities and tooth erosion varies depending on a person’s dental hygiene, lifestyle, total diet an genetic make-up.”
Dentists, however, say they are seeing the effects of beverages first hand.
“In all my years in dentistry I’ve found the leading cause of tooth decay in children to be juice, and in adults, it is energy drinks,” Bobby J. Grossi, DDS, a dentist in Michigan, told Healthline.
“Energy drinks, with a pH of roughly 3.2, are almost as acidic as battery acid, which has a pH of 1,” he added.
Grossi said the acid fosters the growth of bacteria. The higher the concentration of bacteria, the more likely you are to get tooth and gum disease.
Nammy Patel, DDS, a dentist in California, sees other problems, too.
“Because people are so wired after drinking an energy drink, they grind their teeth. That sometimes causes tooth breakage and tooth loss,” Patel told Healthline.
She added that energy drinks can also spur more acid reflux production, which can in turn cause more cavities.
Dental experts say regular consumption of energy drinks can cause serious damage to your teeth.
That’s because an energy drink can essentially bathe the enamel on your teeth in a highly acidic liquid.
The hyperactive energy produced by the drinks can also cause people to grind their teeth, causing tooth breakage and loss.