With the trend towards healthier lifestyles, running and other sports, the consumption of sports drinks, power bars and gels has also risen. One of the things to be mindful about when consuming these too frequently, is the impact of these drinks and food on your teeth.
According to Dr Elvin Leong, Prosthodontist with Specialist Dental Group, the important thing to remember with sports drinks is, like all other foodstuffs, to take them in moderation. The frequency of drinking and the time that teeth are exposed to the acidic drinks will affect the severity of erosion.
Athletes who are involved in endurance events usually get re-hydrated every few kilometers. In a typical marathon or triathlon competition set up, seldom do professional or amateur participants drink continuously over their event. Furthermore, athletes only take part in these events several times in a year. Therefore, considering all these factors, the impact of the sports drinks on those athletes is not an issue.
Some recommendations are:
- Drink in moderation, i.e., only if you need to and not on a daily/regular basis;
- If possible, plain water is still the best thirst quencher without risk of acid erosion to teeth
- Rinse the mouth with plain water after drinking the sports drinks
At present, there is very little scientific research to validate the number of times one should drink such drinks or if drinking from a straw would be more beneficial than sipping or drinking at one go.
Power bars and Gels
Power bars and gels are meant to be a last minute energy supply during long drawn endurance type sports events that typically last more than a few hours. For shorter events, there is simply insufficient time for the body to digest, absorb and utilize them as energy source. Power bars and gels are not meant to be regular meal substitutes on an everyday basis.
There are many brands of power bars or gels. In general, power bars and gels contain high levels of simple sugars, which are easily absorbed and utilized as an energy source. Power gels tend to be simpler in terms of nutrient formulation. The gel form is meant to be swallowed faster. Many power bars contain significant levels of fat and nuts which take longer to be digested and absorbed as an energy source. Power bars are meant to be well chewed up before they are swallowed. The key difference is the duration that the contents stay in the oral cavity. According to Dr Ansgar Cheng, Prosthodontist at Specialist Dental Group, the shorter that these stay in the oral cavity, less harmful to the teeth they may be.
It is natural to relate high sugar content to dental caries. On a regular basis, athletes practice at a fraction of the distance of their favorite long event, and thus the need for consumption of these last minute supplements is low. In Singapore, due to the hot weather, athletes tend to consume a lot of fluids during and after their training, which may neutralize the harmful effect of the sugar content.
Currently, the relationship between dental caries and supplement consumptions is not very well established.