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Dentists warn of high acidity in some energy drinks

Published On: Feb 27 2013 10:21:07 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 28 2013 07:39:43 AM CST
Soda energy drinks
MADISON, Wis. -

Popular energy drinks claim to give people hours of energy, but dentists said people may be bathing their teeth in acid when they consume energy drinks.

Experiments are shedding new light on some of the most popular energy drinks.

They come in flashy containers, promising a boost to get you through those long days.

"A lot of people really do sit and just drink this stuff," said Madison College dental hygiene student Alicia Selzler.

But when the jolt runs dry, new research shows, people are left with are serious hazards to their teeth.

"I used to drink these in high school myself," said Selzler. "And I always wanted to do hygiene, but I never really thought of what this is actually doing to my teeth until I saw this."

Selzler is no stranger to sugar's destructive path, but the experiment she's conducting with her classmates at Madison College examines the acid content of energy drinks.

"The citric acid is the one ingredient that we noticed that if it was listed near the top of the ingredient list, that was one of those solutions we knew we were going to get a low pH," said Marcy LeFave, Madison College dental hygiene faculty member.

On a pH scale, a reading of 7 is neutral, like water. The lower the number, the more acidic the chemical. Students measured the pH of a variety of drinks. Coffee and milk showed pH scores of around 5 and 6, respectively. Root beer was around 4.

But a sugar-free bottle of Vitamin Water Zero showed a high level of acidity in a test, Selzler said.

"It's actually Vitamin Water Zero," said Selzler. "It's showing a pH of 3.15. So the pH of that product is really, really low."

The energy drink in the experiment logged a pH close to 3 as well. Battery acid reads -1 on the pH scale.

And with the popularity of these types of drinks, researchers said it's only a matter of time before a rising number of dentists expend more of their energy on tooth decay.

"The problem is they sip on them throughout the day." said LeFave. "So they're constantly bathing their teeth in a solution that is 3.0. We even find some that are 2.5 pH. So we know those are very acidic."

"I always tell my patients, and I've learned from my hygienist and my teachers, if you sip all day, you get decay," said Selzler, "So this is kind of what we like to show people, the acid and what it's all doing."

With sugar, the decay process begins after the sugar reacts with the bacteria in a person's mouth to produce the acid that eventually gets to his or her teeth. When drinking energy drinks high in citric acid, it skips the sugar-bacteria chemical reaction completely. Researchers said the citric acid could damage a person's teeth faster.

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