Sports drinks offer a convenient way to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes, but sports drinks can also cause tooth decay if not used appropriately. Mouthguards help protect teeth from sports-related injuries, but they only work if the athlete is wearing one. If you’re an athlete or parent of an athlete, this is what you need to know about the risks of sports drinks and the benefits mouthguards.
The Importance of Staying Hydrated
Sports drinks are a great way to replenish electrolytes after sports activities. Electrolytes help with hydration, so sports drinks provide athletes with an easy and convenient choice for staying hydrated. The sports drinks industry has come a long way since its beginnings in the 1970s, when Gatorade introduced their first sports drink.
Today’s sports drinks are much more sophisticated than those early versions and now contain electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride and calcium to help with hydration. They also include carbohydrates for energy needs and sometimes, caffeine to help speed up the body’s reaction time.
How Sports Drinks Can Affect Your Teeth
While sports drinks are a good way to replenish your body of lost electrolytes, they also contain a lot of sugar that can cause tooth decay if they aren’t used in moderation.
Sports drinks contain sugar, or glucose-fructose syrup as it’s sometimes called on the label. This sugar is a food source for bacteria in your mouth and can cause tooth decay if you drink sports drinks regularly without brushing afterwards. Additionally, sports drinks also have high levels of citric acid. While this can add flavor and extend shelf life, it can also attack the enamel, causing tooth sensitivity and putting you at a higher risk for cavities and tooth decay.
Signs of Cavities
The signs and symptoms of cavities vary. Mayo Clinic explains that when a cavity is just beginning, you may not have any symptoms at all. However, as the decay gets larger, it may cause signs and symptoms such as:
- Toothache, spontaneous pain or pain that occurs without any apparent cause
- Tooth sensitivity
- Mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking something sweet, hot or cold
- Visible holes or pits in your teeth
- Brown, black or white staining on any surface of a tooth
- Pain when you bite down
How Mouthguards Protect Your Teeth
Another concern for athletes should be how to keep the teeth safe when engaging in contact sports. Mouthguards are sports equipment that cover your teeth, protecting them from damage during sports activities. They should be used whenever you’re at risk of being hit in the mouth or jaw with a ball, stick or any other object. According to The American Dental Association (ADA), mouthguards should be a part of sports equipment for anyone who is at risk of sports-related dental injuries.
Sports mouthguards cover your teeth with a comfortable, custom-fitted guard that is laminated and sports an overall sleek appearance. They are made of durable plastic materials like polyurethane and can be clear or come in different colors. The mouthguards are designed to fit over your teeth snugly, but comfortably.
Steps to Take if You Suffer a Sports Injury to the Mouth
If you’re an athlete or the parent of one, sports-related dental injuries are a possibility. If this happens to your child while he or she is participating in sports activities, there are some steps to take:
- Rinse out the mouth with water if it has been hit by a ball or other object. Do not rinse with sports drinks, because the sugars will increase bacteria in your mouth.
- Check to see if any teeth are bleeding or loose. If so, contact a dentist immediately for further assistance and treatment possibilities.
- Check sports mouthguards for any damage that may have occurred during the sports injury. If necessary, replace it to help protect your teeth from further damage or injury.
Keep Your Teeth Healthy with Young Family Dental
As an athlete yourself, or as the parent of an athlete, be sure you’re taking the steps needed to protect the teeth and gums from injury and bacteria overload. To learn more about how sports drinks could be harming your smile or to be fitted for a mouthguard, make an appointment at one of our Young Family Dental locations today.