Even the smallest children understand that sugar is bad for your teeth. We tell our little ones about Sugar Bugs (plaque) that dig in and put holes in their teeth, and extol the virtues of brushing and flossing to get rid of plaque. We also remind them that too much candy, sweetened fruit juice, and other sugar is “bad” for their teeth. But something we may not always warn them about is the devastating effect of acid on teeth.
Some of the most acidic products our children have access to are energy drinks. They’ve become the new soda, the new sports drink, and teenagers in particular are drinking them every day. Some of them are “sugar free,” which may lead parents to believe they’re not too damaging to young teeth. But this isn’t the case.
Most energy drinks contain high amounts of citric acid. This is a common preservative that also enhances flavor; but one other thing is does very well is strip the enamel from teeth. Once enamel is gone, it isn’t replaced, leaving teeth vulnerable and unprotected against plaque, cavities, and decay.
An estimated 30-50% of teenagers drink energy drinks with some regularity. Studies have shown these drinks, more than sports drinks or even soda, contain high amounts of citric acid and have deleterious effects on tooth enamel. Excess citric acid an also cause kidney stones and loss of bone mass.
The things that are good for your body are generally good for your teeth, too, and the opposite holds true as well. Energy drinks may be delicious, and they may give a tired student that extra “kick” he thinks he needs to make it through the day. But parents need to be aware of the dangers of these drinks. Helping your adolescent to eat healthy food, drink healthy beverages such as water and milk, stay active, and get plenty of sleep will pay off in dividends. His entire body will be healthier—including his teeth!