Energy drinks and your Teeth

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

Everyday dental hygiene

As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure.

What we have always emphasised is that no number of visits to the dentist will ever replace good oral hygiene habits. Dental health goes beyond just your teeth. Case in point – a build-up of plaque in the arteries is one of the known causes of coronary heart disease. So not only will good dental hygiene leave you feeling fresh and great, your (whole) body will literally thank you for it.

Here we’ve shared a couple of short instructional videos we think may be useful to some. One relates to tooth flossing and the other about children’ brushing that may be handy for some of us parents out there.

Tip: A quick brush or even a quick rinse is always helpful after that tea, coffee or wine to minimise those stains!

Flossing

1. Start with about 50cm of floss, wind most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with.

2. Holding the floss tautly between your thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up-and-down between your teeth.

3. Gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth, making sure you go beneath
the gum line. Never snap or force the floss, as this may cut or bruise the delicate gum.

4. Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth.

5. To remove the floss, use the same back-and-forth motion to bring the floss up and away from the teeth.

Helping children to brush

https://youtu.be/sJK-NjgOB6g

1. Place brush along outer gum-line. Wiggle gently back and forth. Repeat for each tooth.

2. Brush inside surface of each tooth, using the wiggling technique in Step 1.

3. Brush the chewing surfaces of the teeth using a back and forth motion.

4. Use the tip of brush to brush behind each front tooth, both top and bottom.

5. Don’t forget to brush your tongue!