Steering clear of sports and energy drinks could be all it takes to keep the pearly whites clean and avoid having to pay for an expensive tooth whitening treatment, suggests a new dentistry study.
In the May/June issue of General Dentistry, authors noted that the increased consumption of sugary sport and energy drinks is causing irreversible damage to teeth, specifically on the tooth enamel or the glossy outer layer of the tooth.
The finding applies particularly to teens, the authors say, who are the main guzzlers of such products: between 30 to 50 percent of US teens down energy drinks, while up to 62 percent consume at least one sports drink a day.
In addition to the high sugar content, the high acidity levels in the drinks were found to cause erosion of the tooth enamel -- "essentially bathing" the teeth in acid.
Without the protection of enamel, teeth become overly sensitive and prone to cavities and are more likely to decay.
In their study, researchers examined the acidity levels in 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks. Samples of human tooth enamel were soaked in the beverages for 15 minutes, followed by immersion in artificial saliva for two hours.
For five days, the cycle was repeated four times a day to simulate the same exposure that many American teens are subjecting their teeth to.
After the fifth day, researchers found that the teeth suffered enamel damage. Moreover, energy drinks caused twice as much damage to teeth as sports drinks.
It's not the first time dentists have looked at the harmful effects of sports on teeth. Researchers from New York University arrived at similar results in 2009 as sports drinks in their experiment also eroded tooth enamel.
To keep your pearly whites clean, authors recommend minimizing your consumption of sports and energy drinks.
Patients should also wait at least an hour before brushing their teeth after consuming the beverages. Otherwise, brushing just spreads the acid onto tooth surfaces and increases the erosive action.
And if you do give in, chew a sugar-free gum or rinse the mouth with water, both of which increase saliva flow and helps the mouth return to normal acidity levels.