Getting your children involved in sports is great for their overall health and socialization. But sports activities increase the need to stay hydrated, especially in hot weather. Some children might also have trouble with saliva production, especially if they tend to run with their mouths open. During breaks and after a game, your child will probably be thirsty. Your children's dentist will probably tell you, however, that packing him or her a sports drink can be counterproductive.
The Sugar Problem
There are lots of sports drinks out there, but one thing they almost all have in common is a high sugar content. Since the sugar content is expressed in grams and can include terms that parents might not recognize as sugar, parents might not realize what a ‘sweet’ treat a sports drink can be. Gatorade, for example, typically contains 36 grams of sugar per 600 milliliter bottle. That’s the equivalent of nine teaspoons, according to an article in "The Daily Examiner."
Sugar in a sports drink combines with the bacteria in the mouth to produce acid, which attacks the surface of the teeth. Children and teens are more susceptible to tooth decay because their tooth enamel is still developing. In addition to the effects on dental health, sugar-sweetened beverages of any kind increase the risk of obesity.
Acid and Other Issues
The drinks themselves contain acid, such as citric acid. Even sugar-free sports drinks contain acid. Sipping at the drinks means your child’s teeth are bathed in the liquid, increasing contact that promotes tooth decay and can harm tooth enamel. Each time your child takes a sip of soda, a new 20-minute attack on the teeth begins, according to the Wisconsin Dental Association (WDA) website.
Water is the best choice to keep your child hydrated while playing sports or throughout the day. Milk is another good choice — it delivers tooth-building minerals like calcium, although you should consider the caloric content in the overall diet. Fruit juice offers vitamins and a sweet taste, but fruit is also high in natural sugars. If you choose a fruit juice for part of your child’s hydration, make sure it’s 100-percent fruit juice. The WDA recommends you limit the total amount of fruit juice to four to six ounces a day.
When you’re trying to make the switch away from sports drinks, you might try mixing the fruit juice one-to-one with plain water. It gives the water a little taste boost, helps your child drink more fluids overall and limits the total amount of fruit juice consumed. Make sure your child brushes, flosses and has regular dental checkups to promote the best oral health. A pediatric dentist who specializes in children’s dental care is your best source of information about children’s oral health.