A study of the effects some of these beverages had on enamel, appearing in the January/February 2005 issue of General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry's (AGD) clinical, peer-reviewed journal, found that over time, exposing dental enamel to bottled lemonades, energy drinks and sports drinks can do more harm to tooth enamel than soft drinks.
"This study revealed that the enamel damage caused by non-cola and sports beverages was three to 11 times greater than cola-based drinks, with energy drinks and bottled lemonades causing the most harm to dental enamel," says J. Anthony von Fraunhofer, FRSC, FADM, lead author, Professor of Biomaterials Science at the University of Maryland Dental School. "A previous study in the July/August issue of General Dentistry demonstrated that non-cola and canned iced teas can more aggressively harm dental enamel than cola."
Most soft drinks contain one or more food additives. These acids cause the tooth enamel to breakdown. Phosphoric and citric acid are the most common but malic and tartaric acids are sometimes present.
Drinking the beverages does not automatically mean a mouth full of cavities. There are ways to minimize the harmful effects, says Dr. von Fraunhofer.
"The major problem with any of these drinks is not chugging it down, it's sipping continuously over a long period," says Dr. von Fraunhofer. "Sitting and sipping on these drinks throughout the day can do terrible things to your teeth."
The study continuously exposed enamel from cavity-free molars and premolars to a variety of popular sports beverages, including energy drinks, fitness water and sports drinks, as well as non-cola beverages such as lemonade and ice tea for a period of 14 days (336 hours). The exposure time was comparable to approximately 13 years of normal beverage consumption.
The study findings revealed there was significant enamel damage associated with all beverages tested. Results, listed from greatest to least damage to dental enamel, include the following: lemonade, energy drinks, sports drinks, fitness water, ice tea and cola. Most cola-based drinks may contain one or more acids, commonly phosphoric and citric acids; however, sports beverages contain other additives and organic acids that can advance dental erosion. These organic acids are potentially very erosive to dental enamel because of their ability to breakdown calcium, which is needed to strengthen teeth and prevent gum disease.
AGD spokesperson and President-Plect Bruce DeGinder, DDS, MAGD, agrees that it is healthier to drink a soft drink all at once rather than sipping for a long period of time.