Red Bull & Monster Terrorize Teeth

Energy drinks and sports beverages in excess may damage tooth enamel

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Expecting to see lots of Gatorade at your Memorial Day cookout? Or planning to chug a few Red Bulls to make the long drive to visit family? Your teeth may suffer for both.

A recent study's findings point to sports and energy drinks as destroying people's teeth because the high acidity wears down the tooth enamel.

Teens in particular are suffering the worst damage, according to the study.

"Substitute water for sports and energy drinks."

Lead author Poonam Jain, MPH, and colleagues measured the acidity levels of 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks and found significant variance among the brands and flavors.

They wanted to find out was how these levels affected human teeth, so they soaked human tooth enamel samples in each drink for 15 minutes and then dunked it in artificial saliva for two hours.

The experiment was intended to provide as a possible model to help researchers understand how these drinks might affect teeth with repeated, multiple short exposures to the drinks.

They did this four times a day for five days, using fresh artificial saliva in between the immersions. They measured how much enamel weight was lost from the start of the experiment to the end.

The damage the researchers found on the enamel occurred after the fifth day of enamel dunking, and energy drinks were twice as damaging - causing twice as much enamel loss - as the sports drinks were on teeth.

In measuring the pH and "titratable acid" - a subset measurement of the acidity - the drinks Red Bull Sugar Free, Monster Assault, Von Dutch, Rockstar and 5-Hour Energy were found to have the highest levels of acidity.

While the experiment might not adequately or accurately represent tooth exposure people experience when drinking these types of drinks, the results provide insights into how excessive exposure to these drinks might affect tooth enamel over the long term.

Jain noted that erosion of tooth enamel can lead to a range of other dental problems, including extremely sensitive teeth, more cavities and greater risk of tooth decay.

"Teens regularly come into my office with these types of symptoms, but they don't know why," said Jennifer Bone, DDS, a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry.

"We review their diet and snacking habits and then we discuss their consumption of these beverages," she said. "They don't realize that something as seemingly harmless as a sports or energy drink can do a lot of damage to their teeth."

Two suggestions that Dr. Bone offers are that people chew sugar-free gum or rinse out their mouths with water after drinking a sports or especially an energy drink so that the increased saliva from these activities helps the mouth return to normal levels of acidity.

They should not, however, brush their teeth until an hour after drinking these beverages. Otherwise, the brushing action spreads the acid to other parts of the teeth that may not have been affected otherwise.

The study appears in the May/June issue of the journal General Dentistry. Information regarding funding and conflicts of interest were unavailable.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 25, 2012
Last Updated:
August 15, 2012