For more than 10 years, energy drinks in the United States have been on the rise, promising consumers more “oomph” in their day. In fact, it is estimated that the energy drink market will hit $10 billion by 2012. While that may be great news for energy drink companies, it could mean a different story for the oral health of consumers who sometimes daily rely on these drinks for that extra boost.
For most people it would come as a surprise to hear that energy drinks are bad for teeth. Yes, those drinks that you chug down to fend off dehydration during exercise, and to keep your electrolytes in balance. In fact, many people wouldn’t be without an energy drink on a hot summer day, and they often feel virtuous for turning to a beverage that they think is better for you than a soft drink. These same people would be shocked to find out that in many cases, energy drinks can be even worse for your teeth than the typical soft drink or cola!
How can this be? Well, according to a study in the journal Dentistry, teeth soaked in energy drinks for 14 days in an experiment fared worse than teeth soaked in fitness water, soft drinks, and other beverages, due to the high acidity levels and taurine in energy drinks. Those high levels of acid can destroy tooth enamel, even more so than soft drinks can. That breakdown in enamel makes it easier for cavities to form, leading to potentially even bigger problems down the road, such as the need for root canals or extractions.
It is in fact the acidity of drinks that matters most, as these acids alter the pH level in the mouth. This pH level is a standard way to measure the acidity of a substance. A neutral pH level is 6.5 to 7.5, or that found in human saliva. Bacteria proliferate when the pH level falls below 5.5, to an acidic level.
Here is my list of the worst energy drinks for your teeth:
WORST MORNING JOLT
5-Hour Energy (1.93-oz bottle)
0 g sugars
Caffeine: 135 mg
What’s really in 5-Hour Energy? Wouldn’t you like to know! The company claims the product is packed with a variety of vitamins and other compounds that promote energy, but when Consumer Reports recently requested a copy of the supporting research, the company balked. Here’s a golden rule of food and drink: If the company selling the product won’t put its money where its mouth is, don’t put their product where your mouth is. Bottom line: The only proven ingredient in this bottle is caffeine, and one bottle contains about as much as a cup of coffee. You know what costs much less, contains loads of natural antioxidants, and also has as much caffeine as a cup of coffee? You guessed it, a cup of coffee. No energy drink on the planet is more reliable.
WORST CAFFEINATED DISASTER
Redline Power Rush (2.5-oz bottle)
0 g sugars
Caffeine: 326 mg
This is what happens when the companies that produce energy shots go to war with one another (7 hours of energy? Really?). Sipping this tiny bottle is the caffeine equivalent of gulping down about three cups of coffee, which is probably why the company’s website warns minors not to drink it. Oh, and for those of us with family histories of high blood pressure, enlarged prostates, glaucoma, or any one of six other ailments, we need to consult a physician before use. The company also recommends you drink only half a bottle, but who’s going to drink one-half of 2.5 ounces? That’s like packing an Oreo in your kid’s lunch and telling her to eat only one bite. Sugar-Free Red Bull offers the same low-cal advantage with a more reasonable amount of caffeine, which is about as much as a cup of coffee.
WORST SODA HYBRID
Amp Energy (16-oz can)
58 g sugars
Caffeine: 142 mg
No energy drink exposes the blurred line between energy and soda better than Amp. It is, after all, an offshoot of Mountain Dew. The difference is it’s shot through with more caffeine and all the dubious additives that give energy drinks their questionable energy appeal. But the problem with this can is the same problem that afflicts every other soda on the market—sugar. Guzzling this thing fills your stomach with 14 spoonfuls of sugar. If it’s energy you want, Xenergy promises all the same additives without any of the sugar. Consider it a modest vice.
WORST ENERGY SHOT
Clif Razz Energy Gel Shot (32 g package)
12 g sugars
Caffeine: 0 mg
Be wary of any “energy” shot that comes in gel form. These packages are specifically formulated to replenish sugar stores to overworked muscles during bouts of high-intensity training. That’s great if you’re running a 10K, but it you’re not doing some serious athletics, expect it to go straight to your thighs, butt, and belly. For a more sustainable—and less fattening—form of energy, opt for green tea. Ito En’s Sencha Shot is just that, concentrated green tea laced with 152 milligrams of catechins, antioxidants that have been linked to weight loss. One of these tacked on to your daily routine can only do your body good.
WORST COFFEE BOOST
Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino (13.7-oz bottle)
4.5 g fat (3 g saturated)
46 g sugars
Caffeine: 108 mg
I’m not Rockstar’s biggest fan, but they do a lot of things right, like this healthier alternative to Starbucks. Do you know how much whole milk you’d have to pour into your coffee to reach the 290 calories in this Starbucks bottle? Nearly two cups. Or how about this for comparison: This Vanilla Frappuccino has more calories than either a Snickers bar or a Wendy’s Jr. Cheeseburger, plus it has more sugar than two scoops of Haagen-Dazs Crème Brulèe ice cream. Switch to Rockstar’s lighter version of a caffeinated morning drink and you’ll cut your calorie load by two-thirds!
WORST ENERGY DRINK
Vault Red Blitz (20-oz bottle)
78 g sugars
Caffeine: 115 mg
And here it is, the biggest loser in the battle of the energy drinks. Vault packs in more sugar than any other energy drink on the market. In terms of sheer calories, Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino fares just as bad, but even it can’t claim to have more sugar than 3½ Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars. If you’re looking for the daily energy beverage most likely to give you diabetes, this might be it. Otherwise, pick something with less sugar. Rockstar’s Recovery is as fine as any energy drink on the market. It contains 160 mg of caffeine—about as much as 14 ounces of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee—and it’s flavored with lemon juice.
One way to prevent damage caused to teeth even if drinking sports or energy drinks is to chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow, which will help regulate the pH level in your mouth. Another way is to make sure you rinse your mouth out with water in between sips of a soft drink, and to make sure you brush your teeth shortly after drinking any kind of sugary beverage.
Drink responsibly for your oral health:
- Use a straw positioned at the back of the mouth so that the liquid avoids the teeth
- Rinse the mouth with water after drinking acidic beverages
- Limit the intake of sodas, sports drinks and energy drinks
- Do not Brush for 30 minutes after using sugary or acidic beverages.