With summer finally having arrived, we will be seeing more children outside running around and playing sports. Keeping them hydrated during sports is important. With the popularity of sports and energy drinks, many of us will turn to those options to do so rather than a simple bottle of water. Sodas, sports and energy drinks can cause cavities, serious enamel erosion, and affect a growing child’s overall health.
We make it a point to caution our patients about the dangers of these beverages and sweet juices that are damaging to teeth. In the June 2011 issue of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate? It confirms that sports and energy drinks aren’t needed by children and that some of these products contain substances that can be particularly harmful to them. Let us quickly review the differences between the types of beverages as highlighted in the report…
Sports drinks are meant to replace water and electrolytes which can be lost during prolonged and strenuous sports and exercising – they are not intended to be an accompaniment to meals or consumed at recess. They contain carbohydrates, minerals, and electrolytes which at most levels of exertion are unnecessary. Since water is very effective for normal activity, really all kids are getting from sports drinks are extra calories and exposure to potential tooth decay and enamel erosion, especially if they are experiencing a dry mouth after exertion. (This is because saliva, a natural buffer, is not there to protect against the acids in the drinks.)
Energy drinks contain additional stimulants that are not found in sports drinks. These include caffeine (which has been linked to neurological and cardiovascular problems in children), guarana seed (a stimulant which contain up to 3x as much caffeine as the coffee bean), and taurine (an amino acid thought by some to enhance mental and athletic performance). Used singly these ingredients are not child-friendly, but used together in combination and in addition to sugar, it is clear that energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents.
To put the caffeine issue in perspective – true, it’s found in many beverages, including sodas. Yet according to the authors of the report, some energy drinks can have more than 500 mg of caffeine, which is the equivalent of 14 cans of soda!
Our recommendation? Encourage everyone in your family to drink water before, during, and after sports instead of sodas or power drinks. I know that for parents that can be more easily said than done, so if sodas and sports drinks are a big item in your household, we will be happy to discuss strategies to minimize their impact.
Enjoy the sunshine and we look forward to seeing you in the office,
Your Drummond Dental Team
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