Athletes suffer tooth decay due to sugar in sports drinks

Irish Dental Association president says 76% of those in 2012 Olympics had gum disease

 A survey of athletes at the London Olympics in 2012 by a team from University College London  found  55 per cent had  cavities, 45 per cent tooth erosion and 76 per cent  gum disease. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

A survey of athletes at the London Olympics in 2012 by a team from University College London found 55 per cent had cavities, 45 per cent tooth erosion and 76 per cent gum disease. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

 

growing consumption of “healthy” sports drinks, the new president of the Irish Dental Association (IDA) has warned.

Dr Anne Twomey said many patients who were participating in sports were experiencing significant tooth decay and erosion to their teeth.

She said while most people engaging in sports or activities understood the importance of hydration and a healthy diet, many were not aware that a lot of the sports drinks and protein shakes they consumed had a very high sugar content.

Addressing over 400 delegates at the IDA’s annual conference in Cork yesterday, she said the association would be making contact with the Irish Sports Council and member bodies such as the FAI, GAA and IRFU to tackle the issue.

Dr Twomey said people who were constantly taking little sips of sports drinks from a bottle were effectively bathing their teeth in sugar and giving their mouths no time to recover.

“Sports drinks, protein shakes, energy drinks, energy bars and fruit juices can contain anything from five to a dozen teaspoons of sugar. We’ve even come across one drink which contained 14 teaspoons of sugar.

“Protein/meal replacement bars can be very damaging due to the sticky nature of the honey or syrup which is often included. Dried fruit also has a very high concentration of sugar.

57 words for sugar

Dr Twomey pointed to the findings of a survey of athletes at the London Olympics in 2012 by a team from University College London which found that athletes as a group had worse dental health than other people of a similar age.

Of the 302 athletes examined from 25 sports, 55 per cent had evidence of cavities, 45 per cent had tooth erosion and 76 per cent had gum disease. One in three said their oral health affected their quality of life, and one in five said it affected training or athletic performance.

“Our advice is clear. Avoid sports drinks on a regular basis. If taking protein shakes or bars study the ingredients carefully and opt for those not containing sugar.”