Doctor D’s Blog

The increased risk of tooth decay in adult athletes and how to prevent it.

Children and their sippy cups and toddlers with their bottles are a well-known recipe for disaster when it comes to tooth decay, but with the COVID-induced rise in popularity of adult sports like road biking, mountain biking and long distance running the risk once only assigned to toddlers has increased for adults. The culprit? Sports drinks and energy bars.

We have a whole new generation of adults that are becoming sports nuts, eating nutrition bars that are sticky and full of dry fruit that get down into chewing surfaces of their teeth. In addition, and perhaps even more dangerous, is the amount of fitness drinks adults are consuming. Products like Gatorade, Powerade or other sports drinks that people will sip on while they are exercising. Due to their low pH, these beverages are just as damaging to teeth as a sippy cup would be to a baby’s teeth.

A healthy mouth is neither too acidic nor too alkaline. An acidic environment causes caries, while an alkaline one causes tartar. Tooth enamel begins to demineralize at a pH of 5.5, far below the neutral pH of water: 7. The usual culprit behind caries are soft drinks, but even they are not as acidic as most sports drinks.

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That is why fluoride varnish and dental sealants – once considered preventive treatments for kids, have become just as important for many adults. Depending on their individual risk, adults should get a fluoride varnish up to 4 times a year even if they already have sealants.

Some foods are also helpful in re-mineralizing biofilm on your teeth. These include spinach, soy, seafood, cheese and nuts. Be wary of non-sugar sweeteners with the exception of xylitol and erythritol, which have been shown to prevent cavities.

If you feel that you might be at risk of tooth damage because of common consumption of fitness beverages or because you take a medication treating dry mouth syndrome, please talk to one of our hygienists about the preventive measures that could be taken to minimize the risk of cavities.