By Dr Marium Azfar, HoD Community Dentistry, SSCMS
The uplifting effects of energy drinks are well advertised, but a new report finds consumption among teenagers may be linked with poor mental health and substance use. The intake of energy drinks continues to increase, as more products are introduced to the market. While energy drinks are often promoted as improving performance or providing nutritional benefits, they can have distressing concerns for oral health. Kids who are consuming energy drinks are more likely to smoke, they’re more, likely to drink alcohol. It’s uncertain, why this association exists, but certainly, the pattern is there. nearly 40 percent of kids who took the survey, drank an energy drink at least once a week. About 15 percent had at least one energy drink per week. Boys were more likely than girls to be regular consumers of such beverages.
Dental hygienists need to be aware of the oral and systemic health effects caused by the consumption of of these beverages, so they can educate their patients, and promote healthy behaviors. Energy drinks can be relatively caloric, ranging from 100 calories per serving to more than 300 calories per serving. The end result is that a high level of physical activity is needed to offset the caloric intake of these drinks. The consumption of energy drinks can also disrupt sleep, causing fatigue, which is another risk factor for weight gain.
Energy drinks contain sugars and have a low pH, which creates an erosive and cariogenic process within the oral cavity. Besides increasing the risk of weight gain due to high caloric content and the devastating effects on oral health, energy drinks present another health concern, because they are often combined with alcohol. This combination exposes the user to the side effects of both alcohol and the energy drink, and may alter an individual’s perception of his or her impairment, leading to reduced impulse control.
Dental hygienists need to include a discussion of beverage consumption, including type, frequency, and amount, as part of a comprehensive evaluation. Adolescent boys between 14 and 15 are the largest consumers of both sports and energy drinks. Habitual consumers of sports and energy drinks should be advised to consume the drinks quickly and not to rinse or hold the beverage in the oral cavity. Additionally, frequent applications of fluoride, along with dental sealants, can assist in caries prevention.
The consumption of sports and energy drinks is increasing, although many people remain unaware of any health consequences. These drinks, which contain large amounts of caffeine and carbohydrates, coupled with a low pH, have the potential to cause dental caries and raise the risk of tooth erosion.
As such, a question regarding consumption of these beverages should be included during a comprehensive written and oral health history and an individualized education program that covers the side effects of sports and energy drinks, preferable frequency and method of intake, awareness of alternative choices, topical fluoride application, and/or placement of dental sealants or restorations, should be initiated.
The conclusion is , at the very least, steps should be taken to limit teens access to energy drinks, to increase public awareness and education about the potential harms of these drinks and to minimize the amount of caffeine available in each unit. This won’t eliminate the problem entirely, but steps like these can help mitigate harm to our youth that appears to be associated with consumption of these drinks. This is something we need to take seriously. Change won’t happen without a concerted effort.”