The study – published in General Dentistry – reports an ‘alarming’ increase in the consumption of sports and energy drinks, especially among adolescents, is causing irreversible damage to teeth. Led by Dr Poonam Jain from Southern Illinois University, USA, the researchers add that specifically, the high acidity levels in the drinks erode the glossy outer layer of enamel on the tooth.
Jain revealed that damage to the tooth enamel was evident after just five days of exposure to sports or energy drinks – though energy drinks showed a significantly greater potential to damage teeth than sports drinks, said the research team.
"Young adults consume these drinks assuming that they will improve their sports performance and energy levels and that they are 'better' for them than soda," she said, adding that "most of these patients are shocked to learn that these drinks are essentially bathing their teeth with acid."
The research team examined the acidity levels in 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks – finding that acidity levels can vary both between brands of beverages and flavors of the same brand.
To test the effect of the acidity levels, Jain and her team immersed samples of human tooth enamel in each beverage for 15 minutes, followed by immersion in artificial saliva for two hours.
The cycle was repeated four times a day for five days, and the samples were stored in fresh artificial saliva at all other times.
"This type of testing simulates the same exposure that a large proportion of American teens and young adults are subjecting their teeth to on a regular basis when they drink one of these beverages every few hours," explained Jain.
Indeed, the authors found that energy drinks caused twice as much damage to teeth as sports drinks.