Recently, I came across a patient with severe erosion of her teeth, and that prompted me to write an entry about it. “Jane” is in her thirties and has had a history of drinking energy drinks, which was the cause of her dental erosion.

What are energy drinks?

Energy drinks contain caffeine for a stimulatory effect, and some can also contain other additives, such as vitamins, herbal supplements, and guarana, a plant product that contains concentrated caffeine. These drinks claim to give you a boost in energy levels, help you with alertness and improve concentration. The most well known brand is Red Bull.

Why are energy drinks a problem?

While the caffeine level in each individual drink is relatively low, there is concern when multiple drinks are drunk in a short time, or consumed along with other products containing caffeine, such as caffeine tablets or coffee. These drinks are also particularly marketed to the younger audience, and there is concern over the effect of high doses of caffeine in this age group, particularly children and adolescents.

A common trend for young people, particularly university-age kids, is to mix energy drinks with alcohol. The stimulatory effect of the energy drinks masks the sedative effect of alcohol, allowing more consumption of alcohol. This combination can have adverse, even lethal effects.

So what is the impact on your teeth?

Energy drinks contain high levels sugar levels, and are highly acidic. If drunk frequently, the high acid levels erode your tooth enamel (hard protective layer of the tooth). As a consequence, teeth are much more susceptible to sensitivity and tooth decay.

Back to Jane…

At her dental appointment, we found that many of Jane’s teeth had suffered severe enamel erosion, and she reported that her teeth often felt very sensitive. Three of her teeth had cracked due to loss of the protective enamel layer, needing fillings and dental crowns.

We thoroughly discussed the effect of energy drinks on her teeth, and she has now steered clear of them completely. Unfortunately, the changes are irreversible, and Jane may have further dental problems down the track.

Take home message:

  • Stay away from sugary drinks, especially energy drinks.
  • If you have to drink them, do so through a straw. Dilute them and limit your intake.
  • After drinking, rinse your mouth out with fluoridated tap water to neutralise the acid
  • Wait an hour for the acid to neutralise before brushing your teeth

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