Sports Drinks

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Sports drinks, nutritional products and your mouth

Dental decay and tooth erosion are two very common conditions that continue to affect an increasing number of young Australians.  Sadly the increase in prevalence in the young is in part due to the increasing use of sports drinks and energy drinks designed to provide an immediate energy source, key nutrients, and fluid for rehydration during and after sport.

The problem with sports drinks

Such sports drinks are high in carbohydrate content to fuel the muscles and such refined carbohydrates (sugars) are a source of food for oral plaque.  These drinks are usually acidic both to improve taste and to extend the shelf life.

The combination of sugars and acid used repeatedly in support of gym activity exposes the teeth to a particularly hostile environment with resulting damage to teeth that includes both dental decay and the dissolution of the protective enamel covering the teeth leading to exposure of the softer underlying dentine.  The dentine being softer is subject to severe wear during chewing and grinding.

Sports drinks are often used in preparation for training, during training and afterwards.  It is normal for athletes to sip the drinks frequently rather than drink all in one go.  This frequent exposure to carbohydrate and acid results in the teeth being exposed to an extremely hostile environment for prolonged periods of time.

The most common sugars presented in drinks to the dental plaque include both glucose and fructose.  Plaque then ferments the sugars resulting in the production of acids that are held against the tooth surface of the tooth by the plaque film prolonging the period of contact and increasing the degree of demineralisation of the tooth beneath the plaque with the formation of a cavity, referred to as decay.

Fluid loss through sweating must be replaced

One additional problem faced by athletes in connection with intense exercise is sweating.  This results in loss of a significant volume of fluid.  The body records this reduced fluid volume and in order to stop unnecessary loss of additional fluid, the body reduces the formation of certain secretions, including saliva.  This results in a dry mouth often seen in athletes who have been training.

Less saliva means more dental disease

The absence of adequate good quality saliva in the mouth deprives the oral environment of the protective actions of saliva and the various enzyme systems contained within it.  This leaves the plaque to continue to grow in the absence of inhibitory salivary action.

Water depletion and sports drinks (a double whammy!)

If the athlete then starts to drink sports drinks with high carbohydrate content and a low pH (acid) then the damaging actions of these factors are even greater in the absence of protective saliva.

During intense exercise, athletes may choose to consume sports gels to maintain an input of fuel to keep the muscles working and this involves the consumption of gel containing a high concentration of sugars in addition to other key nutritional requirements including Creatine, Caffeine, and beta-Alanine.

Sports drinks should not be used to wash mouthguards

One practice that some athletes use is to rinse the mouthguard in their sports drink.  This is not advisable as there is then a reservoir of sugars to feed the plaque when it is next inserted.

Remineralisation of teeth is the aim

Remineralisation of early decay is important.  The best advice to our athletes is to rehydrate with water, drink milk and consume dairy products like cheese after training to expose the teeth to calcium to assist with remineralisation.

Alternatively, they may use Tooth Mousse or Recaldent chewing gum (these are remineralising products sold by dentists and some Pharmacies and online at http://www.breezecare.com.au/ausshop/recaldent-mint-gum.html).

Both Recaldent chewing gum and Tooth Mousse use a relatively new remineralising technology based on the milk protein Casein called “CPP-ACP” (casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate).  If you would like to know more about Recaldent gum visit http://www.recaldent.com/

Dental Health Warnings:

After the teeth have been exposed to an acidic environment they should not be brushed immediately or the microscopic layer of softened and demineralised enamel that has been exposed to the acidic sports drink or gel can be removed by the action of the brush leading to additional tooth wear.

Parents are advised not to allow young children with their first teeth to drink these sports drinks even when taking part in sports.  Water or milk is still the best choice for them.

All athletes should be advised of the importance of being aware of the problems that sports drinks and gels can cause so that they may use them in a safe manner, rehydrate adequately and use remineralising products to restore the mineral content of teeth affected either by the erosive pH of the drinks or by the caries activity of the plaque acting on the sugar in the drinks.

If would like to know more, or to book an appointment, contact us today.

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NQ Surgical Dentistry

Dr Priestland is on call 365 days per year. In an emergency (post-surgery) refer to your after care instructions for phone details.

Address: 183 Kings Road, Pimlico Townsville, QLD, 4812

Phone: 07 4725 1656

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