Sports drink increasingly damaging teeth

Sports drinks are increasingly damaging the teeth of professional and recreational athletes, one of Australia’s top sports dentists has warned.

Dr Brett Dorney says he has witnessed a huge increase in dental erosion since the Sydney Olympics, when he was the event’s deputy director of dental services.

Dr Dorney says he first noticed the link between damaged teeth and sports drinks when he reviewed the cases of 25 elite athletes in his Sydney practice in 1995.

‘We were absolutely shocked to find that elite athletes do not have elite mouths,’ he said.

‘They were suffering widespread erosion and a lot of them had decayed teeth, which is something that we did not expect from people that we look up to in the community.

‘Normally two mechanisms are involved. One is called dental erosion, which is basically the tooth dissolving. The other one is dental decay [which] occurs because sports drinks are acid, and they allow acid resistant bacteria to build up on the tooth’s surface.’

Dr Dorney says a product that was developed six years ago could help limit erosion from sports drinks.

He cited a scientific paper released by Melbourne University in 2005 that examined the effects of adding a calcium product called CPPACP to sports drinks.

Dr Dorney, who will present his research to an international conference in the US, says he is not encouraging athletes to stop consuming sports drinks, but insists they should be made aware of the dangers.

‘I think modern dentistry is about education – you must give people the information so that they can make choices [about] dental health and what dental risk they are going to be at.

‘[Tooth erosion] is multi-factorial, it depends on whether the person is dehydrated, it also depends on the sport they are playing, the intensity of the sport, whether they have had sufficient fluid before they started playing.’

Premier award-winning hygienist, Sarah Holslag, will be investigating the specific threats to an athlete’s oral health in the May issue of Preventive Dentistry.

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