Why Energy Drinks and Foods Can Cause Tooth Decay

Male athlete lifting weights in gym.

Most top athletes spend hours training for competitions. They also eat nutritious meals, get at least seven to eight hours of sleep, and try to take good care of their overall physical and oral health. But despite these efforts, studies show that many elite athletes have problems with their teeth. To compete at the highest levels, top athletes use high-energy foods and beverages to help them excel and get through workouts and games. Find out why these energy drinks and foods can cause tooth decay.


At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, researchers evaluated the overall physical and oral health of 352 British athletes. They interviewed athletes participating in 11 sports. They found that 94% of the athletes brushed their teeth twice a day. In comparison, about 75% of the general public brush this frequently. Questions about flossing habits also showed that 44% of the athletes flossed their teeth, compared with only 21% of the general public.

Researchers were not surprised to find those top athletes also had lower smoking rates and more healthy diets.

Energy products

Consistently, athletes surveyed used energy products to boost their output. About 87% consume sports drinks, 59% eat energy bars, and 70% chew on energy gels. While these foods and drinks are designed to provide quick energy, they also contain high levels of sugar. These sugars can combine with oral bacteria to create acids that attack tooth surfaces. Over time they can cause decay and gum disease.

Medical professionals also believe that athletes breathe more deeply and regularly while competing or working out. Often, they breathe through their mouths, which can dry out oral tissues. A dry mouth is a sign that saliva isn’t being produced. Saliva is essential to keep oral tissues moist and teeth and gums clean.


Dentists encourage everyone to limit sugary foods and beverages and take care of their teeth and gums for overall health and well-being. Good oral health is especially important for top athletes who want to focus on training and competing, instead of spending time at the dentist. Since many top athletes already have good habits for daily brushing and flossing, dental professionals recommend they use toothpaste and mouth rinse with fluoride. This provides added protection for teeth and gums to help prevent tooth decay.

There are hundreds of toothpaste, toothbrush and mouth rinse products sold in stores. Review these tips to find the right ones.

BBC News

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