Red Bull gives you wings, but it may also give you cavities. Energy drinks are defined as “any of various types of beverage that are considered a source of energy, especially a soft drink containing a high percentage of sugar and/or caffeine or other stimulant”. The most common brands of energy drinks sold in the U.S. are Red Bull, Monster, and RockStar. In 2015, Red Bull had $4.55 billion in sales. While the soda industry is noticing a slow, steady decline in sales, the energy drink industry is steadily climbing.
What is in an Energy Drink?
- Caffeine – Energy drinks contain a varying amount of caffeine, some as high as 160mg, which is equivalent to a Starbucks coffee. If you would not let your child drinks a strong coffee at Starbucks, you should not let them drink energy drinks.
- Taurine – Taurine is an amino acid, present in most energy drinks, that shows no actual evidence of providing any energy at all.
- Guarana – A plant native to the Amazon region, guarana berries contain a very high concentration of caffeine. Guarana is an ingredient in both Monster and Rockstar energy drinks. If you see both caffeine and guarana listed as ingredients in your energy drink, it’s a double whammy, and you should proceed with caution.
- Lots and lots of sugar – An 8-oz serving of Monster energy drink contains 27g of sugar, which is the exact amount of sugar in an 8-oz serving of CocaCola. The important thing to remember is that most people buy both energy drinks and sodas in 16-oz bottles or cans. If you drink a 16-oz energy drink, the amount of sugar is doubled to 54g, which is far higher than anyone’s recommended daily allowance.
How Do Energy Drinks Cause Cavities?
Energy drinks cause cavities in the same way sodas cause cavities: high sugar content, and very acidic pH. It is important for both parents and children to understand that energy drinks offer no health advantages over sodas; in fact, they are more harmful due to the high levels of caffeine they provide.
- Sugar – The bacteria which is naturally present in mouths ingests (eats) sugar, and the by-product is an acid. When this acid stays in contact with the enamel surface, it begins to etch or weaken the outer layer of enamel. This process is the beginning of a cavity. The more sugar you drink, the more you are feeding the bacteria in your mouth, enabling them to cause damage to your enamel.
- pH – All energy drinks, even the sugar-free versions, have a very low pH. Rockstar Sugar Free has a pH of 3.15, Red Bull Sugar Free is 3.39, and Monster Low Carb is 3.60. These pH measurements are well below (more acidic than) the threshold of 5.5, at which enamel begins to soften and become susceptible to decay. Consistently drinking very acidic drinks predisposes you to a high risk for cavities.
What if I Can’t Give Up My Energy Drink?
As with sodas and sparkling waters, you can minimize the damage to your teeth by high sugar, acidic drinks if you limit them to mealtime only. Drink them quickly and while you are eating. The saliva stimulated by your chewing and tasting food will counteract the acid in the energy drink.
If you have a dry mouth, you are at a much higher risk for developing cavities from energy drinks. Please ask Dr. McConnell and Dr. Nguyen how you can address your dry mouth issues and still enjoy an energy drink from time to time.
After having your energy drink, chew sugar-free, xylitol gum for 20 minutes. Chewing gum stimulates saliva production and can bring the pH in your mouth back up to neutral more quickly than it can without chewing gum.
Know your cavity risk. Unfortunately, some people are much more prone to cavities than others. You should know your risk and take the necessary steps to lower that risk as much as possible. If you do not know your level of cavity risk, call the office today at 405-943-0123 to schedule a consultation with Dr. McConnell or Dr. Nguyen.