Waterford, MI Dentist
Lloyd H. Alpert, D.D.S.
4025 Highland Road
Waterford, MI 48328
(248) 682-6010

Posts for category: Teeth

Energy Drinks and Your Child’s Teeth. Should You Worry?

The hard clack of cleats echo about as your “little” sports hero rushes to get out of the house … soon to be late for practice. Armed with all they’ll need for a day in the sun, their equipment bag is packed and slung awkwardly over one shoulder, bursting at the seams with untold numbers of pads and dirty gear. And after making a final beeline through the kitchen to raid your refrigerator of a 64oz bottle or two of rainbow-colored sustenance, they’re off for what will no doubt be another grueling practice session. You’re proud of your kids – they’re growing up. And yet you wonder as you stare at the door that just shut behind them. Are those techni-colored drinks they’re drinking every day hurting them?
The truth, unfortunately, is yes. While they may keep your children energized and awake for the next few hours, the bad news is, they’re secretly eating away at their teeth - and fast. 

Why Are Energy Drinks Such a Threat to Teeth?

The crux of the problem is the double-whammy that comes from an exceedingly high sugar content and citric acid pH that can be as low as 2.9. Now, we understand pH can be a tricky thing to understand, so to help put that number in perspective, a bit, consider this: battery acid has a pH of 0.0 (so, a lower number means a higher acid content). Stomach acid (which we can imagine as being quite acidic, at least!) has a pH that fluctuates between 1.0 and 3.0.  A lemon, in contrast, comes in at around 2.0, a grapefruit at 3.0, and tomato juice at 4.0. 
The real distinction though is in knowing that with each increase in numerical value, the acid intensity increases 10-fold. So, in the example above, a lemon ends up being 10 times more acidic than a grapefruit, and 100 times more acidic than tomato juice - a sensation you can certainly taste if you bite into one!  In contrast, milk and water have a pH of 7.0, so, it's easy to see the difference in the numbers - they're huge.

The Science

What all this means to your child’s teeth is the real question, though, and precisely what researchers at Southern Illinois University set out to discover in 2012.  The results, which surprised even the research team, showed considerable damage to tooth enamel after only five days of steady consumption. Five days. 
To determine the effect of these drinks on our teeth, the research team looked at 22 popular sports and energy drinks, and exposed artificial tooth enamel to the beverages for 15 minutes at a time, four times daily. This schedule was chosen because it mirrors the consumption habits of many users who drink these beverages every few hours - a particularly common habit among those who consume sports drinks, particularly when your kids are involved in sports.  After each 15-minute exposure, the enamel was then placed into an artificial saliva solution for two hours to mimic what would happen once consumption stopped.  After only five days on this schedule, the enamel showed a 1.5% loss with sports drinks, and a shocking 3% loss with energy drinks. 

The Critics

While critics in the beverage industry suggest the time used to expose the enamel to the drinks may have been excessive, it's widely known that snacking, as well as regular sipping of any beverage other than water, creates acidic activity in the mouth that promotes tooth decay. Of course, adults also need to be careful, and if you’re the weekend warrior type, or are pulling shifts and consuming these beverages throughout the day, the time of exposure might actually not be long enough.  The sweet spot is in the middle-ground, and that's basically the advice we're going to offer today.
There is no doubt that these beverages are not good for our teeth. They're also not good for our stomach, and esophagus if one is prone to acid reflux.

The Middle Ground -- It's about being Informed

We're not asking you to force your kids to give up their sports beverages and energy drinks. However, it is wise to know the risks, and to understand how you can help your kids combat some of their side-effects. Here are two quick tips that will help if they can't shake the habit:

  • Have them keep water nearby so they sip on it to dilute the acid covering their teeth. This also increases saliva production to help protect tooth enamel.
  • Suggest that they don't brush immediately after consuming such beverages.  Why? Because in the thirty minutes to an hour after consumption, tooth enamel will be slightly softer, and brushing in this window of time literally ends up spreading the acid around to other parts of the teeth. Not good.  If brushing is desired, save it for an hour or so after.

Lastly, here is the breakdown of most caustic to least caustic drinks as found by the researchers.

Sports Drinks:

  • Filtered Ionozed Alkaline H2O – pH: 10.0
  • Water – pH: 7.o
  • Odwalla Carrot juice – pH: 6.2
  • Odwalla Vanilla Monster – pH: 5.8
  • Unflavored Pedialyte – pH: 5.4
  • Vita coco – pH: 5.2
  • Aquafina,Dasani, Smart water – pH: 4.0
  • GU2O – pH: 4.29
  • Powerade – pH: 3.89
  • Accelerade – pH: 3.86
  • Gatorade Endurance – pH:  3.22
  • Monster – pH:  2.7

Energy Drinks:

  • Red Bull – pH: 3.3
  • AMP Energy – pH: 2.7
  • Monster Energy – pH: 2.7
  • Full Throttle  - pH: 1.45
  • Rock Star – pH: 1.5

The Hardest Part of Your Body: The Importance of Enamel

“Understanding Tooth Enamel”

Tooth enamel covers each of your teeth and protects them from damage. When dentists talk about tooth decay, they're usually talking about erosion of this enamel. It's important to understand exactly what enamel does and how to properly handle it so that you can take good care of your teeth and prevent problems.

What is Tooth Enamel?

Tooth enamel is a hard substance found in the shell of each of your teeth and is the part of the tooth that’s visible when you look in your mouth. Enamel is considered the hardest substance in the human body. It’s even harder than your bones; however, it can dissolve or decay when exposed to acid and a build-up of bacteria.

What is Enamel's Purpose?

Enamel's primary purpose is to protect your teeth from damage. When you chew, you risk damage to your teeth because you have to grind your food. In most cases, your enamel is hard enough to prevent teeth from being damaged while you're eating. In addition, the nerves in your teeth are sensitive to temperature; hot or cold foods could cause them pain. The enamel insulates the rest of the tooth so that you don't feel discomfort when you eat or drink something that’s particularly hot or cold.

Although enamel is a hard, protective surface, it can crack or chip fairly easily. If food gets stuck between your teeth or a food substance is particularly hard, the enamel can break. If this happens, it won't be able to protect your teeth adequately. You may become aware that the enamel has cracked if you feel pain while eating, especially if you’re eating something hot, cold, or sugary.

About Tooth Enamel Restoration

If your enamel begins to decay, your dentist may recommend a variety of procedures, depending on the degree of enamel loss. It's important to go to the dentist as soon as possible when you experience tooth pain, as well as get regular checkups so that you can stop enamel problems before they get more serious.

Most dentists use artificial products to replace lost enamel. They may fill cavities with a filler solution that includes gold, silver, mercury, or plastic. They also may build an artificial crown around your tooth if you have an advanced case of tooth decay. Most dentists don't attempt to restore or regrow enamel, as these kinds of treatments are experimental and have not yet been proven to work. However, you can try alternative treatments at home such as brushing with sea salt to reduce pain and sensitivity in your teeth.

Tooth Enamel and Foods

Enamel is surprisingly susceptible to decay despite its hardness. There are certain foods that you should avoid whenever possible in order to protect your enamel.

Most dentists advise against drinking a lot of soda – and this includes diet. This is because both the sugar and acid can dissolve enamel. Citrus-flavored sodas have higher acid levels than others and are therefore more risky to drink. Sports drinks and energy drinks may also contain high levels of acid, so you should avoid these as much as possible, too.

You should also be careful when drinking juice or eating citrus fruit because these foods contain high levels of acid. Unlike soda, however, fruit juice and citrus fruits have health benefits, so you don't want to cut them out altogether. Instead, eat these foods in moderation and alongside other foods that don't contain acid in order to neutralize their effects. Surprisingly, vinegar also contributes to enamel decay because of its acidic qualities. Be careful when putting a vinegar-based dressing on your salad or when eating potato chips and other products that have a high vinegar content.

Finally, you should avoid candy whenever possible. Most candy contains high levels of sugar, which increases the risk of enamel decay.

Symptoms and Treatment for Tooth Enamel Disease

You might not notice enamel erosion at first because the differences in your teeth are subtle. However, as you lose more enamel, you'll begin having additional symptoms.

If your teeth hurt or throb when you eat something hot or cold, you probably are experiencing some enamel loss. This problem gets worse over time. At first, you might feel a twinge of pain for a second, while later on your teeth will hurt for a while. If you're avoiding certain foods because you know they will cause tooth pain, see your dentist.

As your enamel erosion progresses, your teeth may appear yellow or discolored even though you're brushing them. This is because the enamel contributes to your teeth's white appearance. As the enamel erodes, it exposes more dentin, which is yellow. Your teeth may also appear more round in shape than usual and in some cases may appear unusually shiny. As the erosion progresses past this point, your teeth will appear to be chipped or rough around the edges and you may see indentations forming on your teeth.

Your dentist will examine your teeth for erosion and will fill any cavities or create artificial crowns for severely eroded teeth. If your gums are also infected, your dentist may send you to an oral surgeon to have a root canal or to remove the tooth and replace it with a false one.

The enamel around your teeth is very important because it protects teeth from damage and allows you to eat foods without hurting your teeth. As long as you take good care of your enamel, your teeth will continue to be protected for years to come.

Information Provided by Humana



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