On the market for almost 20 years, energy drinks sales are increasingly flourishing in the soft drinks sector. In North America, 30–50% of teenagers consume energy drinks, and 62% of them drink them at least once a day.
Energy drinks help young people stay awake late at night, give an energy boost, improve their sports performance and help to study longer and better.
Most consume power drinks because they believe that these drinks are “healthier” than harmful high-sugar content carbonated soft drinks.
Marketing energy drinks to youth
As of yet, no scientific study has documented the effects of power drinks manufacturers advertising strategies on young people, but as one can plainly see that the marketing of these products is indisputably convincing.
- The marketing of energy drinks is especially designed for children, teenagers and young adults
- Energy drinks advertising promises an intense and hectic lifestyle that can seduce youth. They claim to be ideal for all occasions, which tends to trivialize the frequent consumption of stimulant drinks
- Companies massively use social media, websites and TV channels for youth, MTV, Much Music and others
- These drinks are easily accessible (convenience and grocery stores, etc.) and are stacked on the same shelves as sugary drinks
- Their merchandising suggests that these products can be consumed at will, regardless of age or consumer health.
Sugar and acidity
Energy drinks are loaded with top ingredients caffeine and sugar, and they represent the highest health and teeth risks, especially for young people. Labeled “an acid mouthwash”, these drinks contain 4 to 8 teaspoons of sugar per 250 ml (1 cup).
“The bacteria convert the sugar into acid and it is the acid that damages the enamel, not the sugar itself, says Dr. David Katz, Director of the Research and Prevention Center at Yale University. Ingesting high amounts of acid accelerates the onset of cavities for consumers”, he adds.
Eating habits have changed
Nowadays, young people have replaced milk or tap water by acidic drinks “that gnaw at tooth enamel”, including energy drinks, sports drinks and carbonated soft drinks!
Sugar helps increase the risk of tooth decay, while acidity contributes to the phenomenon of dental erosion which can cause serious damage.
Drinks that weaken tooth enamel
Looking at tooth enamel in youth, we see that it is less mature, which increases fragility and exposure to the risk of dental erosion. Consequently, surface enamel softens and renders the teeth sensitive to temperature variations, more brittle while brushing and chewing, and more vulnerable to knocks.
What is dental erosion?
Erosion is the result of the direct action of food or stomach acids on the teeth. Several studies worldwide show that dental erosion, by its irreversible nature, could become a more serious problem than that of dental cavities.
Consequences of dental erosion
- Significant reduction of enamel hardness
- Demineralized enamel, more vulnerable to knocks and wear
- Hypersensitivity to cold, heat, sugar or touch
- Complex tooth restoration as internal structure of enamel is dissolved
- Root canal, if the erosion reaches the pulp (dental nerve).
Which foods or drinks are acidic?
- Soft drinks, sports, energy and energising drinks
- Flavored water: contains 5–20 teaspoons of sugar per liter
- Fruit juice, vegetable juice, cider
- Acid fruits: orange, grapefruit, lemon, strawberry, apple, tomato
- Acid vegetables: rhubarb, marinated vegetables, beets, pickles
- Salad dressings, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, relish.
Since 2012, Health Canada regulates the labeling of energy drinks that require manufacturers to detail the content of sugar and caffeine in their products and to inform consumers of their effects.
Preventing dental erosion
How? Simply reduce the frequent consumption and the quantity of acidic beverages. Consider taking these beverages with a straw, and prevent the liquid to touch the teeth surfaces.
- Substitute power drinks by healthier alternatives: green juices, smoothies, protein shakes, green tea or water
- Take acidic drinks at the end of a meal; saliva will restore the natural balance in the mouth and remineralize enamel
- Avoid eating acidic foods before bedtime because saliva production decreases during sleep
- Consume fresh citrus fruit rather than juice because chewing stimulates saliva production
- Do not brush immediately before or after an “acid attack” so that saliva can protect tooth enamel
- Decrease the acidity by drinking milk and eating cheese or yogurt without sugar
- Stimulate the production of saliva by chewing sugarless gum.
If you have teens “addicted” to energy or sports drinks at home, take them to the dentist regularly. And prompt them to do the core dental hygiene habits religiously on a daily basis.
A dental practitioner can quickly detect any sign of dental erosion, and thus limit the irreversible damage it can have on teeth enamel