Sports drinks like Gatorade can be great when you’re really, really dehydrated, but for most of us, most of the time, water is just fine.
Of course, you wouldn’t know that, judging by what we see at sporting events, where sports drinks – and their brands – are ubitiquous, both on the sidelines and, on TV, during commercial breaks. Real athletes drink Gatorade or Powerade or All Sport or…is the message we hear, even though it’s mainly endurance athletes who may benefit from them to replenish carbs and electrolytes during long competition.
Even then, there’s a downside to overdoing it, as former Australian triathlete Jacinta Worland has found out. According to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald, Worland
is facing a $20,000 dental bill this year – what she believes is a legacy of years of drinking litres of sports drinks and eating fruit gels.
Her problems started with tooth decay and became worse. She is preparing to have four teeth extracted and has paid thousands of dollars for crowns and root canal treatment in the past decade.
At the height of her career she was drinking sports drinks daily, up to three litres at a time during a long bike ride. ”You didn’t really think twice about it,” she said.
Dentists warn that the acidity of sports drinks attacks enamel and contributes to tooth erosion. Athletes are more at risk because when they become dehydrated during competition or training, they produce less saliva, which protects teeth.
Dental surgeon John Banky, a member of the Australian Dental Association and Sports Medicine Australia, believes that more research needs to be done on the impact of repeated consumption of sports drinks on dental erosion, which he classifies as a sports injury. The side effects of tooth erosion include teeth discolouration, structural weakness and tooth sensitivity.
”With repeat exposure there’s the possibility of permanent, irreversible damage,” Mr Banky said.
Not only does this news pound home again the physical problem of excess exposure to sugary, acidic drinks; it also reinforces a point we’ve made repeatedly: the best way to save money on your dental care costs is to take an actively preventive approach to your dental health.
It’s interesting: Websites like Answerbag, Askville and Yahoo! Answers are full of questions from people wondering how to pay for dental care. Often, they’re facing problems of pain or infection. They may have been told that they need lots of root canals or restorations. And when you’re at that point, yes, affording treatment can seem daunting, especially if you don’t have dental insurance (though you do have some options).
But the problem can be largely avoided by doing things like getting regular check-ups and cleanings, practicing good home hygiene, eating a healthy diet based largely on whole foods, especially vegetables and fruit, and making healthy lifestyle choices.
And best of all, not only will your teeth and pocketbook benefit – so will your overall health and sense of wellness.