What are sports drinks?
The term “sports drink” can include anything from vitamin waters to highly caffeinated energy drinks. It’s important to distinguish between caffeinated energy drinks and sports drinks, which generally don’t have caffeine.
Sports Drinks vs. Energy Drinks
The caffeine in most energy drinks can cause a variety of health concerns in children. This includes:
● Interference with sleep
● Anxiety and nervousness
● Raised heartbeats
● Difficulty concentrating
● Frequent urination
How do sports drinks work?
Sports drinks, on the other hand, use electrolytes to increase energy. Our bodies use electrolytes to maintain our nerve and muscle function, hydration, muscle repair and blood pressure. When children sweat during exercise, they lose these electrolytes. Additionally, the sodium and sugar in sports drinks replace salt lost in perspiration and keep energy levels up.
Sports drinks can be beneficial, but they should be consumed in moderation. A child needs to have done vigorous exercise (such as cross-country running, skating, soccer, basketball etc.) for an hour before it’s necessary to replenish with a sports drink. Otherwise, the high amounts of sugar can increase the risk of weight gain and tooth decay. For most children, water is the better option for good oral health and physical wellbeing.
How do sports drinks affect oral health?
The sugar in sports drinks creates unhealthy acids that coat the teeth and build a sticky, damaging deposit called plaque. The bacteria in plaque produces acids that can ruin the protective surface of the tooth, called enamel. Over time, as a result of this damage, tooth decay will occur.
Of all age groups, teens are most heavily affected by tooth decay resulting from sports drinks. After adult teeth have come in, damage to the enamel is irreversible. Without the protective layer of enamel, teeth are prone to increased sensitivity and cavities.
Protecting your child’s teeth from sports drinks
Besides cutting out sports drinks entirely, there are other measures that you can take to protect your child’s oral health:
1. Chew sugar-free gum: Sugar-free gum will help to increase saliva production exponentially. The healthy bacteria in saliva helps to protect the mouth and teeth from damaging sugar and acids.
2. Brush an hour after drinking: Brushing your teeth after consuming sugary foods is one of the best ways to combat tooth decay. However, children should wait at least an hour after consuming sugary drinks before brushing their teeth. Brushing too soon can spread harmful acids into the grooves of the teeth where they are difficult to remove.
As parents, we know that you want you child to succeed in sports, but it is important not to encourage kids to believe they need a sports drink to perform at their best. Be careful not to make sports drinks your child’s go-to source of energy or as a reward for a good performance. Like soda, children can become addicted to the sugar in sports drinks.
The best place for your child to get the necessary nutrients to live an active lifestyle is from balanced meals. Kids that eat natural foods, drink water throughout the day and get enough physical activity, will naturally have energy.
If you are concerned about damage to your child’s teeth from sports drinks, your Kids Dental Group pediatric and orthodontic specialists can advise you on how to proceed.