What You Need To Know About Energy Drinks And Your Teeth

Dr. Christopher Li Etobicoke - Li Family Dental

By Dr. Christopher Li

July 22, 2023


Energy drinks have become the go-to for people wanting a quick boost to power through their day or workout. However, whether you are going for that energy boost or are chugging a sports drink to recover after a workout (or hangover), you need to be aware of the harm these highly acidic, sugary drinks are causing your teeth. Here’s what you need to know about energy drinks and your teeth.

What Are Energy Drinks?

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Energy drinks come in two categories:

  1. Sports drinks: Sports drinks are the lesser of two evils as they help replenish lost electrolytes. These drinks do offer some benefits because despite having a lot of sugar and acid, they also have the water, carbs, and electrolytes like sodium and potassium needed to recover after sweating or a night of too much drinking. It’s just important to remember, they also contain high sugar and acidity that can cause dental erosion.
  2. Energy drinks: Energy drinks are not recommended at all as they are high in caffeine, sugar, and acid. They don’t offer any benefits or nutrients; instead, providing nothing more than a brief energy kick followed by an unpleasant crash. From a functional standpoint, the stimulants of caffeine impact your central nervous system, so you feel temporarily re-energized. However, you will experience unpleasant side effects, whether it is that crash mentioned earlier or finding you can’t sleep. Adding to the issues with energy drinks, studies show they actually contain twice as much acid as sports drinks, meaning they can cause even more damage and quicken the pace of dental erosion.

Can I Drink Sugar-Free Energy Drinks Instead?

No, unfortunately, sugar-free options can cause just as much harm to your teeth as those containing sugar. 

Why Is Dental Erosion Bad For Teeth?

why is dental erosion bad for teeth

The term erosion is never positive. In the case of dental erosion, it refers to the softening and weakening of your protective dental enamel. This hard outer tooth layer protects your teeth against decay and once softened, it leaves your teeth vulnerable to the ravages of bacteria. Although there are many acidic foods and drinks, energy drinks are particularly harmful due to the level of acids they contain. 

What Do Energy Drinks Do To Your Teeth?

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Energy drinks have a negative impact on your mouth’s natural balance and environment. Our mouths produce saliva as a natural way to rinse away debris, bacteria, and pathogens. Healthy saliva has a neutral pH level of about 6.8 to 7. When you consume energy drinks, you cause those levels to drop, and the lower the pH level, the less healthy the mouth’s natural environment becomes. A single sip of an acidic energy drink drops pH levels in your mouth to 2.

Adding to the risk, it takes 30 minutes for the neutral pH levels to return. All the while, your teeth are soaking in acid, increasing the damage to your dental enamel. If this seems a bit dramatic, it’s important to compare pH levels. Your neutral pH level in your mouth is about 7, while energy drinks are about 3.2. To show how damaging energy drinks are, their pH level is less than 2 points higher than highly corrosive battery acid. 

Energy Drinks And Your Teeth:  More Bad News

other impacts of energy drinks on teeth

Because your body gets hyped up on energy drinks, it’s not uncommon for some people to grind their teeth because they are overstimulated. Teeth grinding can cause damage to teeth, including wear and tear, cracks, and even tooth loss. Another side effect of energy drinks for some people is acid reflux. This causes highly corrosive stomach acids to enter your mouth, which also reduces healthy pH levels. This unhealthy environment is the perfect place for bacteria to attack your teeth. With the enamel already softened, this greatly increases the risk of tooth decay.  

Energy Drinks And Children

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If you are a parent, you might offer energy drinks to your children on extremely hot days. However, along with the acid, energy drinks also contain high levels of Taurine. Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in the body, as well as in foods such as meat and seafood. However, the high amount found in energy drinks can cause health issues for kids, including kidney strain and growth issues. 

Energy Drinks Sound Worse Than Sports Drinks: Are They Okay To Drink?

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Relatively speaking, sports drinks are not as bad as energy drinks. However, as a beverage choice, they both contain tons of sugar and acid that damage tooth enamel and increase the risk of tooth decay. You should also keep in mind that weakened tooth enamel also makes it easier for your teeth to stain. So, if the idea of tooth decay isn’t enough of a deterrent, perhaps yellowing teeth is.

How To Prevent Energy Drink Tooth Damage

If you’re still not convinced you should avoid energy or sports drinks, you can use these tips to reduce enamel damage:

  • Only consume sports drinks when working out or enjoying physical activity, not as an everyday beverage
  • Use a straw to reduce contact with your teeth
  • Look for low-sugar/low-acid sports drinks
  • Alternate sips of water and sports drinks
  • Don’t rinse your mouthguard with sports drinks
  • Wait at least 45 minutes after consuming sports drinks to brush your teeth
  • Stay away from energy drinks altogether 

Choose Healthy Alternatives To Sports Drinks

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The good news is there are a few healthier choices that offer the benefits of sports drinks without the worries of enamel erosion. Our top pick is coconut water because it has plenty of nutrients, including potassium, sodium, and manganese, so you get the same effect as you do from drinks like Gatorade. However, you don’t have all that acid, sugar, and dye.

Another good suggestion:  the classic combo snack after a workout of the trusty banana and water. The potassium in bananas provides electrolytes, while the water rehydrates.

We are less enthusiastic about the final option, chocolate milk, since it contains sugar. However, you’ll get everything you need to recover from a workout, including carbs, protein, Vitamins A and D, iron, and calcium.

Although sports and energy drinks have become the go-to choice to offer a boost of energy and help recover after a night out or an intense workout, making healthier choices will provide the same benefits and protect your teeth.

Give us a call at 416-232-2033 or request an appointment by clicking here.

Dr. Christopher Li

About the author

Doctor Christopher Li, DDS
Dr. Chris, as he is affectionately known, is a licensed dentist with over 20 years experience. His caring personality makes even the most tentative person at ease. Patients are constantly commenting about how Dr. Chris is incredible at delivering pain-free freezing, and how he has an amazing chair-side manner.  Dr. Chris loves sharing information with his patients and everyone who has teeth about how to care for their teeth, avoid tooth decay, and the treatments available to help them overcome their tooth pain or other dental issues so they can enjoy life and food to its fullest!

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