Why Soccer May be Giving Your Kids Cavities

By March 31, 2014 April 1st, 2019 General Dentistry
photo of children playing soccer in new york

I’ll fess up.  Soccer doesn’t really cause cavities…

However, many kids who participate in athletics drink sports drinks (e.g., Gatorade or Powerade).  They advertise that they help you to refuel and to restore lost electrolytes, but they don’t tell you that these sports drinks can be just as acidic as soda.
To illustrate this more clearly, see the chart below.  It shows the pH (i.e. acidity) of common drinks.  The lower the pH, the more acidic the beverage is.  In other words, a lower number means it has more potential to harm your child’s teeth.
Drink
Approximate pH Range[4, 5]
Water
7.0
Milk
6.7
Sports Drinks
2.3-4.4
Soda
2.7-3.5
Fruit Juice
1.8-2.4
Water, which is neutral and one of the most beneficial drinks for teeth, has a pH of 7.  Compare that to the acidity of soda, a beverage commonly known to be bad for teeth.  The pH of soda ranges from 2.7-3.5 and the pH of sports drinks ranges from 2.3-4.4.  Not much of a difference between the acidity of soda or sports drinks, right?…  Now that you’re informed, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to learn that many studies now show that sports drinks can lead to enamel weakening and more cavities [2].
While sports drinks are a popular means for replacing fluids lost during athletic competition, studies have not conclusively shown that these beverages are better than water for hydrating or for maintaining electrolyte balance [1,3].  In fact, cold water remains the ideal replacement beverage for most young athletes [3].
In addition to cavities, there are some concerns that frequent consumption of sports drinks can also lead to obesity as many of these drinks contain added sugars.  So, avoiding these drinks can help improve our overall health as well!
I don’t think you need to ban sports drinks entirely but your child should avoid it during times of sedentary or limited activity.  Just be judicious with your child’s consumption of sports drinks and try to limit its use to specific cases such as prolonged vigorous exercise or instances of excessive heat and humidity [1].
Dr. Bertman’s Notes:
I don’t think of Vitamin Water as a sports drinks but you should also consider restricting this from your child’s diet.  It’s also pretty acidic and maybe not as healthy as it sounds.  Here’s a great article: https://www.parenting.com/article/ask-dr-sears-is-vitamin-water-safe-for-kids

If you want more info on the effects of sports drinks (and energy drinks too) on kids, read this great study: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/6/1182.long

Sources:

1. Pediatrics. 2011 Jun;127(6):1182-9. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-0965. Epub 2011 May 29.  Sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: are they appropriate?
2.  American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Guidelines (Revised 2013) https://www.aapd.org/media/Policies_Guidelines/G_Periodicity.pdf

3. Pediatric Dentistry, 4th Edition – Jimmy R. Pinkham, DDS, MS, Paul S. Casamassimo, DDS, MS, Henry W. Fields, DDS, MS, MSD, Dennis J. McTigue, DDS, MS and Arthur Nowak, DMD

4. https://www.dimensionsofdentalhygiene.com/uploadedimages/DDH/Magazine/2006/04_April/eat_table1.jpg

5.Test by Dr. John Ruby, University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Dentistry, 2007.  Minnesota Dental Association: Sip All Day, Get Decay (via https://drinksdestroyteeth.org/?p=129)
Dr. Todd Bertman

Dr. Todd Bertman

Renowned NYC dentist Todd Bertman, DMD, has over 18 years of experience in the dental industry. In addition to membership in the American Dental Association, Dr. Bertman is also a member of the New York County Dental Association and the New York State Dental Association. He is certified as a Level I and II Invisalign practitioner, and belongs to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the World Clinical Laser Institute, and the IALD (Institute for Advanced Laser and Dentistry). Dr. Bertman is dedicated to learning about the latest advanced dental procedures and making them to his patients.

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