Sports drinks -- and especially energy drinks -- are so acidic, they can cause irreversible damage to teeth in as little as five days, a new study by dentists finds.
"Young adults consume these drinks assuming ... that they are 'better' for them than soda," the study's lead author said in a statement. But "these drinks are essentially bathing their teeth with acid."
Researchers looked at acid levels in 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks. They submerged human tooth enamel in each drink for 15 minutes, then in artificial saliva for two hours, to try to simulate how the drinks are consumed. Researchers repeated the tests four times a day over five days.
Results showed irreversible damage to tooth enamel with all drinks they tested. But energy drinks caused twice as much damage as sports drinks, the dentists' study found.
Damage to tooth enamel can make teeth overly sensitive, and more susceptible to cavities and tooth decay, researchers said.
To prevent those consequences, dentists recommend:
Cutting back on sports and energy drinks. About 30% to 50% of U.S. teenagers consume energy drinks, and 62% consume at least one sports drink a day, according to the Academy of General Dentistry.
Lowering the acidity levels in your mouth after consuming a sports or energy drink -- by rinsing your mouth with water, or chewing sugar-free gum that can get your saliva flowing.
Waiting at least one hour before brushing your teeth after consuming a sports or energy drink. Brushing sooner could spread the acid and cause more damage to your teeth, dentists warn.
But critics challenged the study's real-life application. No one holds energy drinks "in their mouths for 15 minute intervals over five day periods," the American Beverage Association said, according to CBS News.
The dentists' energy and sports drink study appears in the May/June issue of General Dentistry.