Friday, February 27, 2009

Keep Sports Drinks on the Playing Field

Gatorade and it's kin are a handy way to rehydrate while exercising on a hot day. They can also be useful keeping sick kids (and grownups too) hydrated during a bad illness. However, I have seen an increase in recent years of families using sports drinks as a regular every day drink. Bought by the case at the local warehouse club by mom and dad, kids will drink these around the house all day, every day. Parents often tell me they considered it a healthier alternative than soda. This is not surprising given how the ads for these drinks seem to promote them as some kind of healthy super drink. These drinks are designed to help keep fluids and electrolytes in balance during and after vigorous exercise where a lot of sweating occurs. They are quite good at this. However their nutritional value is about zero (and don't be fooled by the ones with vitamins in them!).

The problem dentists are seeing from these drinks is a sometimes quite dramatic increase in tooth decay for regular users. Adolescents are at particular risk. When we advise patients regarding decay risk we stress the importance of limiting frequent sugar exposure (particularily in liquid form) and to avoid acidic drinks. Most sports drinks are loaded with sugar and are quite acidic. Both of these factors can increase decay activity immensely. It has not been unusual to find multiple decayed teeth in teenagers pop up even from their last six month appointment. In my experience these cavities are also more aggressive than what is typical these days in the age of flouridation.

Bottom line? Keep the sports drinks on the playing field and encourage healthier drinks at home like iced tea or lemonade with non sugar sweetener, milk, or good old fashioned tap water (not the bottled kind!......I'll get to that on a later post).