Dental Health Article by Dr Emma - "Energy Drinks"

Dental Health

Dr. Emma

I call energy drinks the dental equivalent of a perfect storm. What exactly am I talking about? Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, V, Mother… basically any fizzy drink that also contains a stimulant such as caffeine or guarana. The odd one here and there is unlikely to do much harm, but there seems to be a growing trend of habitual use. Particularly amongst the Gen Y bunch, it's perfectly acceptable to down a can in the morning instead of a cup of coffee. Before you reach for your next can or bottle, consider the trifecta of issues that make energy drinks a problem for your teeth.

Sugar: If you're going for the "regular" version rather than one with artificial sweetener, then there's a lot of sugar involved. If you've read my article "Decay Demystified", you'll know that a high sugar diet is a key ingredient in tooth decay. The more often you consume sugary foods and drinks, the more risk you have of decay starting up. Once it's settled in, decay is irreversible and must be completely removed to stop it in its tracks. This means fillings, or in the case of advanced decay the complete removal of the tooth involved.

Acid: Energy drinks, both the regular and sugar-free versions, are very acidic. With a pH around 3, they are easily capable of dissolving tooth enamel. If it's a one-off, then your teeth can recover by absorbing the minerals in your saliva. If you're drinking one every day, or drinking loads on the weekends, then your teeth will slowly dissolve away. This process is known as dental erosion, and it's extremely difficult to fix.

Saliva: Saliva has such an important role in maintaining your oral health. It helps to wash away food and bacteria, it contains antibacterial agents, it helps to neutralise acids which can dissolve your teeth, and also provides a source of calcium and phosphate to remineralise your teeth after they come into contact with acid. Stimulants like caffeine mimic what prehistoric 'you' would be feeling when chased by a sabre-toothed tiger. Saliva flow is not important when you're running for your life, so it slows right down in order for your body to spend its resources pumping blood to your heart, lungs, and running muscles.

To make matters worse, this is only one of the ways caffeine consumption results in reduced saliva flow. It's also a diuretic, which means it makes you need to tinkle more. More liquid going out means increased thirst, and if you don't drink enough water you will become dehydrated. If there's limited water available in the body, then saliva again becomes a low priority, and your mouth dries up.

If you do what a lot of partying people do, and combine energy drinks with alcohol, you're compounding the problem again. Alcohol is a diuretic like caffeine, which is why every man and his dog recommends drinking a lot of water before you go to bed in order to combat the dreaded hangover.

Like anything in life, energy drinks should be enjoyed in moderation. We all have the occasional surrender to our vice, be it energy drinks, alcohol, chocolate cake, or a Jersey Shore marathon. Just make sure it's not a regular thing, and your teeth should be able to recover. If you're downing energy drinks multiple times a week, do your teeth (and body!) a favour and switch to a glass of good old tap water.

Dr Emma

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Important: This article is general advice only. For further advice or information on this topic, please consult your health professional.


Category:Dental Health

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