With spring finally here, many people will soon be getting the itch to get outside and exercise. Whether it is running, walking, playing baseball, golf, or tennis, it is important to stay hydrated with this increased activity level. Many people will use sports drinks to do this, and may also use gels for an energy boost while competing in events that require prolonged stamina, such as a marathon. While these do a good job of keeping your energy up and fluid/electrolyte levels in balance, they are also highly acidic and contain a lot of sugar, both of which can be very harmful to your teeth!
To understand why sports drinks and energy gels can harm your teeth, it is important to first understand how a cavity develops. When the bacteria in our mouths breakdown the sugars in our food, they produce acid. This acidity lowers the pH in your mouth, and if this gets past a certain point (pH of ~5.5), enamel can start to breakdown. This high level of acid breaks down the main component of enamel, called hydroxyapatite (made of calcium and phosphate) and if the enamel breaks down so much that the second layer of tooth is exposed (called dentin), the cavity needs to be treated with a restoration.
The most important aspect in cavity development is the amount of time teeth are exposed to this high level of acidity. Therefore, if athletes are using sports drinks and gels during sporting events, it is crucial that they rinse with water following this, and take extra care while brushing and flossing. Sports drinks and gels should be used sparingly and only as needed during athletic events, and while they provide certain benefits, the power of water should not be overlooked!
For more information on your risk level of developing a cavity and for a complete evaluation of your oral health, stop by or give us a call at our West Caldwell dentist office!