The energy drink market is booming in the United States, with over $20 billion in sales annually (that’s over 29 billion gallons of energy drink!). But at least one fewer consumers in the United Kingdom will likely be drinking the potent beverages after the damage he says they caused to the inside of his mouth.
The man, Dan Royals, is a teacher who, like countless others, relied upon energy drinks for a quick pick-me-up. By his own estimates, Royals claimed to drink upwards of six energy drinks a day. But all that stopped when Royals says he noticed the flesh on his tongue being “eaten away” by the drinks. Royals, who also smokes, says he takes care of his oral hygiene but does not believe the damage to his tongue was caused by smoking.
Energy drinks claim to pack a wallop of energy without having to rely on traditional caffeine like coffee or soda. Touted as healthier alternatives, these beverages are full of sugar and caffeine, too. Worse yet, they are often highly acidic.
Dr. Allison Lesko is a dentist from Fort Collins, Colorado. She says all that acid can be bad for not just the tongue, but the teeth, too.
“The acid found in energy drinks can often be higher than the levels found in coffee and soda, and that can easily cause excessive damage and wear to tooth enamel,” she says.
As if that weren’t bad enough, recent studies have shown that when mixed with alcohol, energy drinks increased instances of impaired judgment such as the desire to drive while intoxicated. Studies from 2007 and 2011 have even linked energy drinks to an increased number of emergency room visits by persons who consumed the beverages both with and without alcohol or other substances.
Worse yet, the market for energy drinks is largely unregulated, despite the beverages’ growing popularity – especially among young people and millennials. Some data suggests that a full 61 percent of millennials indulge in these peppy drinks from time to time, a move experts believe is due in no small part to many millennials trying to stick with “all-natural” products.
“The problem is, there isn’t really much natural about these drinks,” says Lesko. “So consumers think they’re getting a healthier alternative when what they’re really getting is more of the same – and damaged tooth enamel, to boot.”
If you really can’t quit your energy drink habit, Lesko says there are ways to limit the amount of damage they do to your teeth.
“If you really must indulge, do so responsibly. Don’t mix energy drinks with alcohol, and when you’re done, wash your mouth out with water,” she says. “But whatever you do, don’t brush your teeth immediately after drinking because this can damage your tooth enamel even more. Wait at least 30 minutes after drinking before brushing so your enamel has a chance to reharden. Otherwise you could permanently scratch it.”