Red Bull may give you energy, wings, and even liquid courage (when properly combined), but a new study says that in return, it’ll rot your teeth right out of your head. Researchers say that drinking sports and energy drinks is essentially “like bathing your teeth in acid”—and can permanently wear off tooth enamel. This is especially bad news for teens, 30 to 50% of whom consume energy drink, and 62% of whom drink at least one sports drink per day.
The study, published in the latest issue of General Dentistry, simulated regular consumption of 13 brands of sports drinks and nine brands of energy drinks by submerging samples of human tooth enamel in the drinks for 15 minutes, four times a day, and storing them in fresh saliva at all other times. (Try not to think about how they procured all that spittle; it’s unappetizing.) After just five days, all enamel showed signs of wear, but samples exposed to energy drinks were significantly worse than those exposed to sports drinks.
The breakdown of enamel is bad news: It increases tooth sensitivity and makes teeth more susceptible to decay and cavities. Which isn’t good news for the teens who drink these beverages, according to lead author Poonam Jain, BDS, MS, MPH:
Young adults consume these drinks assuming that they will improve their sports performance and energy levels and that they are ‘better’ for them than soda. Most of these patients are shocked to learn that these drinks are essentially bathing their teeth with acid.
The best damage control is obviously curbing consumption of the drinks, but dentists also recommend chewing sugar-free gum or rinsing the mouth with water afterwards to increase saliva flow, which helps reduce acidity in the mouth. Surprisingly, they also say to wait at least an hour after drinking to brush your teeth; apparently, brushing directly after drinking an energy drink can spread acidity to other teeth.