The effects of sports drinks off the court…
Let me tell you a story about a successful sports kid whose mom got pretty mad at him after he was diagnosed with a bunch of cavities at a routine dental visit. The year was 1998 and “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden was blasting through every portable CD player at West Middle School. The kid in question was Zach Blanchard–not only was he the star quarterback of the football team, he was also the captain of West’s track team and still holds the statewide record for the 400-meter dash (without, like, even trying). Legend has it that while he could throw a ball with his hands tied behind his back and run like the wind in Crocs, he wasn’t so lucky with his teeth.
Zach’s case was a curious one. How could a fit, healthy kid develop so many cavities in such a short amount of time? His mom was going nuts, exclaiming that he had just been to the dentist six months earlier with no issues. Had he developed a secret candy or soda habit? Was he not brushing at night? Zach was a good kid and he wasn’t sneaking any sugary contraband… so what could it be? Turns out, Zach’s dentist had seen this all before, he knew right away that kids who play a lot of sports usually end up drinking a lot of sports drinks as well… and you know those contain almost as much sugar as a can of soda, right?
Many sports drinks and supplements like Gatorade, Vitaminwater, and Gu Energy Gels are loaded with sugar because it’s quick fuel for the body during exercise. While Zach was sipping on Gatorade to refuel during football practice, he had no idea that he was repeatedly feeding the bacteria in his mouth. He was creating a perfectly dark, wet environment where the bacteria could consume the sugar to produce acids and start doing real damage to his teeth. Over several weeks, the damage was done and Zach’s teeth looked like swiss cheese. Thankfully, he had his problem addressed early on, and with advice from his dentist, he was able to take some precautions to keep it from happening again.
Here are some #hottips from the wise dentist for all you Zachs out there (even if you’re not into sports but maybe tend to sip on a can of soda or, lemon water throughout the day, or perhaps you take your coffee with sugar and cream? Whatever your poison; these tips can also help you:
- If you aren’t able to brush right away, swish your mouth with fresh water after eating or drinking anything with a lot of sugars/carbs
- Swap out sugary sports drinks for drink tablets like Nuun which contain all the electrolytes your body craves, without any additives or sugar
- Brush and floss before you go to bed. The reason flossing is so highly emphasized by your hygienist is because it mechanically disrupts the formation of biofilm (which is basically the bacteria in your mouth forming the off-white goopy stuff on your teeth. Yuck.)
- If you need a little extra help, a higher concentration of fluoride in a rinse or paste can certainly help! MI Paste is highly recommended and comes in a variety of flavors. You can even ask about fluoride toothpaste.
Equating cavities with unhealthy foods or behaviors is a fallacy. Even habitual fruit eaters can cause a lot of damage to their teeth due to the naturally occurring sugars and acids. So if you’re outside exercising or even staring at a computer screen with a 40 oz Mountain Dew, just be mindful of the sugar you’re consuming and the steps you can take to minimize the risks.