(INDIANAPOLIS) (WISH) - Dentists say kids are literally drinking their teeth away.
The culprits: energy drinks, sports drinks - the beverages every kid wants.
Milk is no longer the No. 1 drink in America. And sports drinks got a boost when schools brought them in to replace pop. It was meant to be a healthier option. But sometimes, it's exactly the opposite.
Indiana dentists say the drinks can be devastating.
"Twenty years ago, I thought we had decay on the run," said Dr. Diane Buyer, a dentist in Nora. "It has come back with a huge vengeance."
She showed the teeth of a 21-year-old with rampant decay. Five years ago, he didn't have any cavities.
She also showed the teeth of a 30-year-old man who admitted drinking a 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew every day.
She said now that man's mouth is undergoing major rehabilitation.
And she introduced us to Wes Bruemmer, a Brebeuf High School graduate who played baseball. Bruemmer said because he was so active, he drank a lot of sports drinks. He thought it was just as good as or better than water. He said he drank three sports drinks a day.
"After practice I was gulping them, but during school I was sipping," he said.
Bruemmer had no cavities before braces. But 18 months later, he had 12 cavities.
"He is in college, and this is going to follow him the rest of his life," Buyer said.
And you might think it's the sugar in the drinks that has damaged his teeth, but dentists said that's not the only culprit. It's the acid in the drinks that causes the most problems.
According to a study at the University of Iowa, just one day of soaking in Gatorade, Red Bull or Coke ate into the hard enamel surface of teeth.
There are 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce Coke, but there's also acid.
"The double whammy with the acid is it softens the tooth. So now you have the last 50 years we have spent educating people about fluoride making our teeth harder going down the drain," Buyer said.
The acid softens and thins the tooth enamel.
"If someone comes and sits in my chair and they have cavities at the gum line, cheekside, we call that mountain dew mouth," she said.
Dentists use hard-boiled eggs for a demonstration. The eggshell is similar to the enamel on your teeth.
Buyer soaks the eggs overnight in the drinks. The eggs soaked in milk actually get harder. But the shell put in the Monster energy drink has been eaten away.
"Monster actually eats the first layer," Buyer explained.
It may be impossible for you to get your kids to stop drinking pop, energy drinks and sports drinks. But there are things you can have them do to lessen the potential damage.
• Drink cold beverages.
• Drink the sports drink before working out or playing a game, when you aren't dehydrated.
• Don't immediately brush your teeth after drinking. The acid has softened your enamel.
• Drink with food, drink with a straw and drink in one sitting. Dentists say: "Sip all day, get decay."
"Once you take a drink of an acidic drink it takes several hours for that enamel to reharden," Buyer explained.
One mom has already found her solution.
"I would tell other parents have a Gatorade or Powerade, but fill it right up with water right after you are done," Kathy Logan advised.
She buys electrolyte drops to put into water. They have less acid, but a similar effect when it comes to rebuilding lost minerals.
Her son said he laughed at his mom when he first heard her plan.
"She ended up sticking to it," Michael Logan, a North Central athlete said. "Gatorade stopped being bought in the house, and it was all electrolytes after that."
Buyer said the drinks are creating a negative lifelong legacy for an entire generation.
"I used to feel if I could get my young men and ladies graduating high school without cavities they were golden," she said. "But they are coming home from college with six, seven, eight cavities now."
Indiana dentists are hoping the drink of champions makes milk No. 1 again.
The Indiana Dental Association is taking the egg demonstration to fourth- and fifth- grade classrooms to help kids make better choices about what they drink.
But not everyone agrees on the potential danger.
Ohio State University studied 300 athletes and found no connection between drinks, foods and dental erosion.
And in 2005 the Gatorade Sports Science Institute found that if sports drinks had any effect, it was to decrease dehydration and increase saliva flow, which reduces the potential for cavities.
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