When kids play sports, the most common go-to drink tends to be some sort of sports drink. It’s important for young athletes to replace fluids, carbohydrates, and electrolytes after hard exercise, but if too much is consumed, the high sugar and high acidic content of sports drinks can increase their risk of tooth enamel erosion and decay.
While they are advertised as replenishing lost electrolytes, sports drinks contain extra calories and high levels of sugar, almost as much as two-thirds the sugar of soda drinks. The extra calories can lead to potential weight problems and the extra sugar can lead to dental problems.
According to Holly J. Benjamin, MD, FAAP, a member of the executive committee of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, “For most children engaging in routine physical activity, plain water is best. Sports drinks contain extra calories that children don’t need, and could contribute to obesity and tooth decay. It’s better for children to drink water during and after exercise.”
When the sugar in sports drinks mixes with the naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth, an acid is created. It’s this acid that can destroy the hard surface of the tooth, called enamel which in turn can lead to tooth decay.
So what can parents do?
Instead of buying the large bottles of sports drink for your kids, buy the smaller bottles and limit them to only one serving. If you know they are going to have a particularly hard and rigorous activity coming up, make sure they drink plenty water the day before. That way they are adequately hydrated before the activity even begins. At other times, encourage them to drink water instead of sports drinks when they are thirsty. If your child doesn’t like water, you can try adding slices of oranges, strawberries or cucumbers to make it a little more flavorful. Or have them pick out some natural flavors they’d like to try.
Water is usually the best choice, but if you do give the OK for a sports drink, make sure it isn’t too much.
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