Sports Drinks and dental decay

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Sports drinks have become a highly marketing product that are promoted as a great way to hydrate and refresh after exercise. But just how beneficial are they?

For elite athletes training at high levels of performance they can be a way of replenishing the body’s salt, glucose and electrolytes levels that were depleted during exercise. But for those of us who engage in regular activity in the Queensland heat do we really need them?


There are a couple of problems when it comes to the health of our teeth and sports drinks.

  1. Sugar. In your average sized sports drink (600ml) 35-45 grams of sugar which is between 9-11 teaspoons of sugar. Not only are we reaching our daily sugar limit in one drink but the sugar feeds bacteria in the mouth which cause dental decay.
  2. Acid. The pH of sports drinks is very low and therefore are very acidic. The acid erodes the hard outer layer of our teeth (enamel) which can result in dental decay.
  3. Dry Mouth. When we exercise we can become dehydrated which reduces the amount of saliva in our mouths. Our saliva acts as a protective coating on our teeth. So when we drink a sports drink high in sugar and acid when we are dehydrated, we are exposing our unprotected teeth to the sugar and acid in the sports drink.

Steps to reduce your sports drink consumption:

  • Trying drinking water as your first fluid post exercise
  • Try enjoying a piece of fruit such as a cold orange instead of a sports drink as you get all the added benefits of micronutrients and fibre as well as the carbohydrate from eating fruit.
  • Is coconut water a better alternative? The unflavoured coconut waters with no added sugar can provide slightly less sugar (30 grams per 600ml) than a sports drink. They contain electrolytes which are important for rehydration. Whilst they are not dissimilar to sports drinks in their sugar content, they come in smaller serve sizes (so you drink less) and contain no colours or preservatives.