NORFOLK - Have you ever wondered what's actually in the things you drink? Unless you're drinking plain water, the odds are pretty good that citric acid is high on the list of ingredients
The food additive can eat away at your teeth enamel and it's especially harmful when combined with the sugar in those drinks and it can begin in just seconds.
"It's just melting the enamel," says Donna Lewis, a dental hygienist with Konikoff Dentistry. "That's because she says you are bathing your teeth in the sugar and acid."
Lewis says dentists are seeing a lot more patients with cavities.
"We see a patient that comes in one six-month appointment and has no cavities or has never had a cavity and then you see a person six months later and they have 10," she described.
That's especially true for athletes who drink a lot of sports drinks. 18-year-old Josh Worthley is a big fan of sports drinks. In fact, he says he drinks "maybe a gallon a day." He also knows to brush his teeth because of the sugar.
Lewis says brushing is good, but when it comes to citric acid, don't brush too soon.
"If you brush your teeth right after drinking those products, you're spreading the acid around on your teeth and causing more damage," she explains.
Citric acid isn't limited to sports drinks. It's found in soda, "fitness water" and "energy drinks." which are a big hit with young adults.
"They go off to college and start increasing their consumption of energy drinks. They'll come home on break and all the sudden they have ten cavities," she says.
Lewis says the problem comes from the acid pH in the drinks. The pH scale measures the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. Water would be a 7.0, which means it's neutral. A pH of 2.9 is considered highly acidic and can break down tissue as well as bone and teeth.
According to a study by Dr. John Ruby at the University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Dentistry, one of the most popular sports drinks out there, Gatorade, has an Acid pH of 2.9.
What can you do to minimize the effects of these popular drinks?
"You should drink your sports drink before the game, then drink water throughout the game and water at the end," Lewis recommends.
That way you're washing most of the citric acid out of your mouth to make sure the enamel isn't soft when you go to brush your teeth. And you need to wait at least an hour before brushing.
She also suggests chewing sugarless gum to help cut down on cavities.
Bottom line: You don't have to quit drinking your favorite beverage because it has a lot of citric acid.. You just need to drink it wisely.