A study published in the Academy of General Dentistry charted an alarming increase in the consumption of both energy and sports drinks among young adults in the US who use them to help get through the day.
But they said the habit is causing irreversible damage to teeth as the high acidity levels in the drinks erode tooth enamel, the glossy outer layer of the tooth.
In some cases it can take as little as five days for the eroding effect to begin.
“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,’” said lead author Dr Poonam Jain, from Southern Illinois University.
“Most of these patients are shocked to learn that these drinks are essentially bathing their teeth with acid.” Researchers examined the acidity levels in 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks. They found that the acidity levels can vary between brands of beverages and flavours of the same brand.
To test the effect of the acidity levels, the researchers immersed samples of human tooth enamel in each beverage for 15 minutes, followed by immersion in artificial saliva for two hours. This cycle was repeated four times a day for five days, and the samples were stored in fresh artificial saliva at all other times.
“This type of testing simulates the same exposure that a large proportion of American teens and young adults are subjecting their teeth to on a regular basis when they drink one of these beverages every few hours,” said Dr Jain.