Sports Drinks are Bad for Children’s Teeth

It is common for kids playing outside in the heat to grab a sports drink to re-hydrate and stay cool, but these drinks may be the cause of more trips to the kid’s dentist for oral health problems. Drinking too many of these sugar-filled sports drinks can be harmful to a child’s oral health.  Sports drinks are everywhere, including school cafeterias, because they are thought to be a safe alternative for children to consume.  Although they may be a healthier alternative to sodas, these drinks are just as capable of causing tooth decay.

Acid and Teeth

Many people associate enamel erosion with the bacteria found in the mouth as a result of poor oral hygiene habits.  Unfortunately, highly acidic foods and drinks can cause significant damage to teeth without the help of bacteria.  Sports drinks contain high levels of citric acid or phosphoric acid, which may leave children’s teeth more prone to cavities and tooth decay. Once acid erosion starts to attack the enamel on teeth, the teeth often become more sensitive to hot foods, cold foods, touch and pressure, which causes problems with eating, biting and brushing.

Sugar and Teeth

Just like soda, sports drinks contain a high concentration of sugar and although sugar itself doesn’t rot the teeth, the acid that is produced from bacteria due to the sugar, does.  Sugar feeds the bacteria that live in our mouths. When children drink sports drinks and other beverages that contain a lot of sugar, the bacteria consumes the sugars, turning the sugars into a harmful acid that eventually causes erosion of the tooth enamel and causes cavities. The best way to remove the acid causing bacteria is to brush, but sports drinks are often sipped frequently throughout the day, which lengthens the amount of time the acids and sugars are on the teeth, leading to plaque and decay.  Enamel demineralization leads to cavities on the areas of teeth that have an accumulation of plaque, which is caused by sugars and the bacteria.
Not only can the excess sugars in these drinks cause tooth decay in children, but it may lead to obesity, diabetes and other health issues.  All of these can have a negative effect on oral health.  

If you are concerned your child may have cavities as a result of drinking sports drinks, contact his or her dentist to schedule an appointment for a cleaning and thorough examination.

Can Cough Syrup Cause Cavities?

It’s well established that both cough drops and cough syrup contain ingredients that can contribute to tooth decay and oral health issues. A child’s teeth are most susceptible to cough syrup, particularly if they use cough medicine and then go to bed without brushing their teeth.  The purpose of cough syrup is to coat the throat, but it also coats the teeth.

Sugar, Alcohol and Cavities

Cough syrup usually has a sweet taste because of the sugar in it, but it also often contains citric acid and alcohol. Alcohol can make the mouth dry.  Bacteria in the mouth feed on that sugar, and the acid forms around the teeth from the bacteria. Saliva naturally cleans the acid away, but because of the drying effect of alcohol coupled with the naturally diminished production of saliva during sleep, sufficient saliva isn’t produced to clean off the citric acid. That means the acid from the bacteria is left on the teeth for hours resulting in tooth decay.

Cavity Prevention During Cold and Flu Season

If you’re going to give your child cough syrup during cold and flu season, give it to them well before they go to bed and make sure that they brush and floss their teeth before their head hits the pillow. If you have to wait until just before the child goes to bed before taking the cough syrup, have them brush and floss to remove the sugar from the surface of their teeth. Pills or capsules are the best alternatives to liquid cough medicine, and they work just as well so long as your child can swallow pills or capsules.

Tooth decay can cause pain and destroy teeth that you and your kid’s dentist work so hard to maintain. Quality oral health for your kids helps keep your children healthy and reduces the costs of dental care. A little sugar, citric acid and alcohol in a dose of cough syrup might seem insignificant, but it can adversely affect their oral health over time, particularly before bedtime.  Follow our cough medication recommendations for the optimal dental care of your child.