Tag Archives: enamel

New test maps acidity in the mouth to spot cavities before they form

The phrase ‘prevention is better than the cure’ is a fundamental principle of modern health, and your oral health should be no different. One of the best ways to prevent cavities is by brushing and flossing correctly. But by now, most people do this and they still end up with some caries eventually. Taking prevention to the next level, scientists at the University of Washington have now developed an optical-based method that can identify the most at-risk teeth by mapping high acidity in the dental plaque that covers the teeth.

Shining light on teeth covered with a florescent dye solution can reveal where the enamel is most at risk from acidity. Credit: University of Washington/IEE Xplore.

Dental plaque is produced by bacteria that live in our mouths as a byproduct as they consume sugars, starches, and other bits of foods that haven’t been properly cleaned from the teeth. If plaque stays on the teeth for more than a few days, it hardens and becomes a substance called tartar. In time, the microorganisms that form on the plaque release acids that wear down the tooth enamel, then the next layer called dentin, before reaching the pulp. When acid attacks the pulp, you’ve officially gotten a new cavity.

But what if we could monitor this acidic activity and stop it before it crosses a point of no return that triggers the cavity formation? That’s exactly what researchers at the University of Washington set out to do. They’ve devised a system, which they call O-pH, that measures the pH levels, or acidity, of the plaque covering each tooth under inspection.

In order to map the acidity of the plaque, a person’s teeth are first covered in a non-toxic, safe chemical dye that reacts with light to produce fluorescent reactions. An optical probe then detects these fluorescent reactions, whose signals can reveal the exact acidity of the underlying dental plaque.

The proof of concept was demonstrated on a small sample of 30 patients, aged 10 to 18. Children and teenagers were selected because their enamel is much thinner than that of adults, which makes detecting any sign of erosion — and consequently a potential cavity — early on very important. The tooth acidity was read before and after sugar rinses, as well as pre- and post-professional dental cleaning.

In the future, this acidity test could be standard practice in dental practices. Eric Seibel, senior author and research professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Washington, says that when a patient comes in for routine teeth cleaning, “a dentist would rinse them with the tasteless fluorescent dye solution and then get their teeth optically scanned to look for high acid production areas where the enamel is getting demineralized.” The dentist and patient can then form a treatment plan to reduce the acidity and avoid costly cavities.

“We do need more results to show how effective it is for diagnosis, but it can definitely help us understand some of your oral health quantitatively,” said Manuja Sharma, lead author and a doctoral student in the UW Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  “It can also help educate patients about the effects of sugar on the chemistry of plaque. We can show them, live, what happens, and that is an experience they’ll remember and say, OK, fine, I need to cut down on sugar!”

The O-pH system was described in the journal IEEE Xplore.

Artificial enamel is even stronger than real teeth

Credit: Pixabay.

Enamel, the hard mineralized surface of teeth, is the hardest thing in the human body. Pound for pound, enamel is tougher and harder than steel. Its unique mix of minerals, water, and organic material makes it tough enough not to dent while at the same time making it durable enough to withstand decades of grinding and tear – but only for so long. Depending on your diet and how well you take care of your teeth, you can stave off tooth decay but you can only postpone the inevitable for so long. The problem is that once teeth lose their enamel, it never comes back, and tooth decay is right around the corner.

Despite many attempts to replicate the wondrous properties of enamel, most efforts have proven in vain. A new study, however, has reignited hopes that such a thing is actually possible after researchers at the University of Michigan have devised a way to make artificial enamel. It goes without saying that this would be a huge leap for dentistry, which still uses decades-old filling technology to repair cavities.

Mimicking enamel in the lab is incredibly challenging due to its complex structure of interwoven hydroxyapatite nanocrystals, which are one-thousandth the thickness of human hair. These crystals are arranged in wires, which become coated in magnesium by enamel-producing cells, and then are woven together into a very strong mesh, which is further organized into twists and bunches.

Researchers have struggled while attempting to reconstruct the complex and multi-layered organization of enamel. But where others failed, the authors of the new study finally succeeded. They encased wires of hydroxyapatite in a malleable metal-based coating, resulting in a structure that has a soft layer that can absorb the powerful shock of a bite but is strong enough to take a lot of pressure without denting.

In fact, the artificial enamel is stronger than the natural variation due to swapping the magnesium-rich coating with the much stronger (and non-toxic) zirconium oxide. To test the material’s strength and elasticity, the researchers cut a piece with a diamond-bladed saw then used a mechanical press to apply pressure steadily until it started to crack. The artificial enamel surpassed natural enamel in six different measures, including hardness, elasticity, and shock absorption.

Now, the artificial enamel doesn’t mimic natural enamel to the tee. It lacks the complex 3D woven patterns of natural enamel, but its parallel wire structure is the closest scientists have come to true enamel thus far.

The research could drastically improve the construction of artificial teeth, as well as significantly reduce tooth decay through new and improved fillings that last much longer. However, the best dental treatment is still prevention, which is why doctors recommend having a good dental routine and opting for teeth straightening as early as possible. Comparing options currently available on the market shows there is a good number of quality aligners and braces manufacturers to choose from.

But beyond dentistry, the hard artificial enamel could prove highly useful when incorporated into implantable electrons and biosensors, such as pacemakers and blood pressure monitors.

“This method of making artificial enamel lends itself to commercial production and it can be produced for the manufacture of artificial teeth,” Nicholas A. Kotov, of the University of Michigan, told i.

It’s still early to make any predictions when this product might reach the market, but since all the components of the material are biocompatible, researchers hope to soon begin trials on both animals and humans. The artificial enamel hasn’t been binded to natural enamel yet, a crucial step in tooth repair, so this will be one of the many tests the material needs to pass before we can finally enter a new age of dentistry.

The findings appeared in the journal Science.

How whitening strips can damage your teeth

Dentists all over the United States are having a hard time keeping up with the demand for brighter, white teeth. And because these services can be expensive, many turn to whitening strips that they can apply themselves at home. However, Americans’ obsession with perfect white teeth might sometimes backfire if these strips aren’t used accordingly.

According to a study performed by researchers at Stockton University in Galloway, NJ, whitening strips can damage the protein-rich dentin tissue found beneath the tooth’s protective enamel.

Teeth are made up of three distinct layers. The innermost layer is a connective tissue that helps keep the teeth safely in place; the middle layer is made of dentin, the yellowish tissue that makes up the bulk of all teeth; and the external layer is made of enamel, which determines the brightness of teeth.

Teeth-whitening strips are made of a flexible plastic that is coated in a thin layer of whitening gel. The main active ingredient is hydrogen peroxide, an oxidizing agent that is also the main substance found in products that bleach hair.

Overusing hydrogen peroxide as a color-lightening agent is known to damage the hair and the scalp. And, according to researchers led by Kelly Keenan, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Stockton, hydrogen peroxide can have a similar effect on teeth, potentially attacking the dentin layer of teeth.

The Stockton professor and her students reported that perhydroxyl radicals produced by peroxide break up long-chain organic molecules into smaller molecules.

Whitening strips are applied to the teeth such that the gel penetrates the tooth and starts the whitening process. Even the best teeth whitening kits have to be applied each day for two to three weeks.

The researchers followed these instructions in the lab using human teeth extracted from cadavers. In order to model the human mouth environment, the teeth were soaked in artificial saliva and washed.

Then, the research team measured the level of collagen and other proteins that make up dentin and compared the results to unbleached teeth, as well as a different set of teeth that underwent whitening three times.

The results suggest that hydrogen peroxide can pierce the enamel layer and infiltrate dentin, which is made of 90-95% collagen. In the case of teeth that were whitened three or more times, the collagen seemed close to disappearing.

“We sought to further characterize what the hydrogen peroxide was doing to collagen,” said Keenan. “We used entire teeth for the studies and focused on the impact hydrogen peroxide has on the proteins.”

In another experiment, the researchers treated pure collagen with hydrogen peroxide and then analyzed the protein using a gel electrophoresis laboratory technique that allows the protein to be visualized.

“Our results showed that treatment with hydrogen peroxide concentrations similar to those found in whitening strips is enough to make the original collagen protein disappear, which is presumably due to the formation of many smaller fragments,” said Keenan.

Does this mean that using whitening strips can damage your teeth? The research suggests that this may be a risk when using such products, although more research is required as the study itself has some important limitations. For instance, it didn’t consider the fact that collagen can be regenerated. Also, the effect of the strips wasn’t studied in a real human mouth, which might prove to be very important.

But, as the teeth whitening industry is set to grow to $7.4 billion by 2024, cosmetic dentists are becoming increasingly concerned as to what this may mean for patients.

If you’d like to have whiter, brighter teeth without having to risk your oral health, dental experts recommend avoiding foods that are known to cause staining such as coffee, tea, red wine, and soda. If you consume these foods, rinse your mouth with water right after drinking or eating in order to reduce the staining effect.

Enamel-like gel could spell the end of dental fillings

Credit: Zhejiang University.

For thousands of years, humans have been battling tooth decay — and the longer we live, the worse it gets. The problem is that once our teeth lose their enamel — the hard mineralized surface of teeth — it never grows back. This is why dentists will remove the damaged enamel and fill it with a hard material that barely resembles the real thing. But not for long.

Chinese scientists at Zhejiang University and Xiamen University recently reported in the journal Science Advances that they’ve developed a special gel that can help tooth enamel repair itself.

The researchers started from clusters made of nanoparticles of calcium phosphate, the main ingredient of natural enamel. Each tiny cluster was doped with a chemical compound called triethylamine in order to prevent the clusters from clumping together.

The nanoparticles were then mixed with a gel that was applied to a sample of crystalline hydroxyapatite, a material that very closely resembles human enamel. Scanning electron microscopy revealed that the clusters created a layer that covered the sample.

The same experiment was carried out on real human teeth that had their enamel removed with acid. Within two days of application, the gel had formed a crystalline layer of approximately 2.7 micrometers. This layer had a fish-scale-like structure that closely resembles that of natural enamel. Tests also showed that the enamel substitute also had similar strength and wear resistance properties as the natural material.

Scanning electron microscope images of human tooth enamel after repairing for 6 hours, 12 hours and 48 hours. The blue area is the native enamel, and the green area is the repaired enamel. The black scale bars are 1 μm. Credit: Zhejiang University

This is not the first attempt at creating an enamel substitute but previous efforts could not fuse tightly with the real tooth. The new material can fuse in a single layer rather than multiple crystalline areas that can be very vulnerable to mechanical damage.

In the future, the researchers plan to carry out more tests in mice to make sure the gel has no undesirable side effects. These results are so far extremely promising, suggesting that in the future dental fillings could become obsolete.

Charcoal toothpastes don’t work and are a ‘marketing gimmick’

A review found that charcoal toothpastes have no evidence to back their claims up and might even do more harm than good.

Image credits: Marco Verch.

Purchasing a toothpaste can be a surprisingly daunting task: how do you choose between so many similar products? Most people choose out of habit or based on recommendations from friends or dentists. As you’d expect, in addition to the well-established approaches, some fringe options have also crept on the shelves.

“Charcoal toothpastes and powders are fashionable oral hygiene products, intended for toothbrushing, extrinsic stain removal and, it is claimed, ‘tooth whitening’. The popularity of charcoal toothpastes is believed to be increasing in many countries across the world,” researchers start off their study.

Charcoal has become a popular novelty on the toothpaste aisle, with many people seeing it as a cheap and ‘natural’ alternative. However, there are a bunch of problems regarding these products. For starters, they don’t contain any fluoride to help protect the teeth and facilitate remineralization. There’s also no reason to believe that charcoal pastes work better than conventional products. They’re essentially a very fine powder scrub, which has an abrasive effect on teeth but you can easily go overboard and wear away the protective enamel. The fine charcoal particles can also get stuck on teeth or gums, and even around fillings or cavities, causing long-term damage through abrasion. Of course, the black toothpaste can also leave behind an unpleasant grimy black look if not thoroughly washed off.

Simply put, researchers couldn’t find any evidence that charcoal toothpastes are good, but they found plenty of evidence that they might be harmful unless used very carefully. Professor Damien Walmsley, from the British Dental Association, told the BBC:

“Charcoal-based toothpastes offer no silver bullets for anyone seeking a perfect smile, and come with real risks attached.”

“So don’t believe the hype. Anyone concerned about staining or discoloured teeth that can’t be shifted by a change in diet, or improvements to their oral hygiene, should see their dentist.”

Historically, charcoal has been used in several types of health applications. Ingesting some types of charcoal has been (and still is) used to relieve gas and some digestive issues. In emergency situations, activated charcoal (a very fine charcoal powder) can also be used to save people who have ingested some poisons or toxic substances, by absorbing the substance and preventing it from reaching the blood supply. In Ancient Greece and some Medieval cultures, charcoal powder is used as a rudimentary toothpaste, but modern toothpastes work so well that there’s just no reason to substitute them with something less efficient.

This isn’t the first study to shower doubt on charcoal toothpastes. Just two years ago, a 2017 Journal of the American Dental Association study, analyzed 100 articles on charcoal and charcoal-based toothpastes and powders, finding “insufficient clinical and laboratory data” to support their safety or effectiveness.

The study was published in the British Dental Journal.

Starting from a seemingly simple tooth, researchers were able to learn much about the lives of Neanderthal children. Credit: Tanya Smith & Daniel Green.

Neanderthal children endured harsh winters and lead poisoning 250,000 years ago

Starting from a seemingly simple tooth, researchers were able to learn much about the lives of Neanderthal children. Credit: Tanya Smith & Daniel Green.

Starting from a seemingly simple tooth, researchers were able to learn much about the lives of Neanderthal children. Credit: Tanya Smith & Daniel Green.

There’s much we don’t know about how our close cousins, the Neanderthals, lived and interacted among themselves. A one-of-a-kind new study is filling in the blanks, providing unprecedented insight into the lives of Neanderthal children. The teeth of two juveniles who lived 250,000 years ago in France suggest that their childhoods were pretty rough, going through much harsher winters than modern humans had experienced. They even were exposed to lead poisoning — the first such instance recorded in a human relative. But despite the numerous hardships, their mothers seem to have done the very best they could.

Nursing Neanderthal kids

The fossilized teeth belonging to the two Neanderthal children were recovered Payre, a site in the Rhone Valley, southeast France. Tanya Smith, a biological anthropologist at Griffith University in Australia, along with colleagues performed a CT scan of the remains and then cut each tooth into thin slices. Like tree rings, teeth record the diet as well as the climate of the individual in each daily growth line of enamel. The results were then compared to the teeth of a modern human child who lived 5,400 years ago at the same site.

Barium isotopes — a marker for milk consumption — told Smith and colleagues that the Neanderthal young were nursed by their mother until they were 2.5 years of age. According to the research team, that’s about just as long as modern humans in hunter-gatherer societies nurse their babies.

The ratio of different isotopes of oxygen found in the layers of the children’s teeth shows that the Neanderthal young lived through colder winters and more seasonal variation in climate than modern humans who lived more recently at the same site. This assertion fits with evidence that scientists previously gathered suggesting that modern humans lived through a much stabler climate in the past 10,000 years.

A 250,000-year-old Neanderthal tooth yields an unprecedented record of the seasons of birth (age 0), nursing (yellow box), illness (red line) and lead exposures (blue lines) over the first 2.8 years of this child’s life. Oxygen isotope values sampled on a weekly basis are shown as a ratio of heavy to light variants. Credit: Smith et al, Science Advances.

A 250,000-year-old Neanderthal tooth yields an unprecedented record of the seasons of birth (age 0), nursing (yellow box), illness (red line) and lead exposures (blue lines) over the first 2.8 years of this child’s life. Oxygen isotope values sampled on a weekly basis are shown as a ratio of heavy to light variants. Credit: Smith et al, Science Advances.

“Our approach is based on the fact that two naturally-occurring atomic variants of oxygen vary in predictable ways. During prolonged periods of warm weather, surface water is higher in the heavy variant of oxygen. The opposite pattern occurs during cool periods. When individuals drink from streams or pools of water, values from these sources are recorded in the hard mineral component of forming teeth,” Smith wrote in The Conversation.

The children were exposed to lead at least twice during their early lifetimes, likely due to food and water with contaminants from nearby lead mines, only 25 kilometers from the archaeological site.

Although the researchers didn’t study adult remains, the findings nevertheless tell us quite a lot about some invisible heroes — the Neanderthal mothers who, despite great hardship, took care of their young as best as they could, perhaps nursing them as carefully as human mothers would.

In the future, the researchers plan on performing the same dental thinning and isotope analysis technique on other specimens and even other types of humans.

“Traditionally, people thought lead exposure occurred in populations only after industrialization, but these results show it happened prehistorically, before lead had been widely released into the environment,” Christine Austin, Assistant Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and co-author of the new study, said in a statement. “Our team plans to analyze more teeth from our ancestors and investigate how lead exposures may have affected their health and how that may relate to how our bodies respond to lead today.”

“Dietary patterns in our early life have far reaching consequences for our health, and by understanding how breastfeeding evolved we can help guide the current population on what is good breastfeeding practice,” said Manish Arora, Professor and Vice Chairman Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine. “Our research team is working on applying these techniques in contemporary populations to study how breastfeeding alters health trajectories including those of neurodevelopment, cardiac health and other high priority health outcomes.”

The findings appeared in the journal Science Advances.

chewing highland beauty

Despite oral hygiene, chewing still leaves nanowear on teeth

Oral hygiene is important for teeth and gum health but despite our best efforts, the enamel still suffers wear and tear. A new study found that no matter a person’s diet, the act of chewing food wears teeth down at the nanoscale.

chewing highland beauty

A chewing highland beauty. Credit: Pixabay.

Peter Ungar, an anthropologist, and Ryan Tian, associate professor of inorganic chemistry, both at the University of Arkansas, worked with Chinese colleagues at the Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu to study the different kinds of wear on the nanostructures that make up tooth enamel.

Enamel is the outer layer of each tooth and is the hardest, most highly mineralized substance in the human body. It’s made of ribbon-like strings of nanoparticles called hydroxyapatite crystallites, which are stacked on top of each other and glued together by proteins. Enamel is actually translucent, so you can see right through it. Dentin, the bulk material of any tooth, is what’s responsible for tooth color — whether white, grey, or yellowed.

Using high power microscopes, researchers imaged the surface of human molars as they applied pressure using tips made of different kinds of materials. This simulated the pressure created on enamel when crushing food. They also moved the tip across the surface of the molars, simulating the action of teeth moving against each other when eating.

Researchers found that scratching damaged molars more than indentation. In other words, blunt force was less damaging than sharp objects scraping against teeth, i.e. chewing. There was visible damage in both cases, nevertheless.

Three kinds of defects on the surface of enamel were reported — plucking, deformation, and fragmentation.

Nanoscale crystallites that make up tooth enamel before and after researchers applied pressure. Credit: University of Arkansas.

Nanoscale crystallites that make up tooth enamel before and after researchers applied pressure. Credit: University of Arkansas.

Plucking happened when the crystallites were separated from each other. When the force was increased, deformation occurred which represents the bending and squeezing of crystallites. Applying even more pressure caused the chemical bonds holding the crystallites together to break, resulting in fragmentation.

“Hydroxyapatite crystallites are the fundamental units of enamel, each less than 1/1000th the thickness of a human hair,” said Ungar. “Most research on tooth wear to date has focused on effects at much larger scales, but we have to study enamel at this finer level to truly understand the nature of how the hardest tissue in our bodies resists wear and tear.”

Understanding how chewing damages teeth at a fundamental level is important not only for clinical dentistry but also for seemingly unrelated fields like evolutionary biology. This basic understanding could help some scientists spot new clues from archaeological remains.

“The findings in the surface tribological chemistry can help us understand the nature of the interfacial chemical bonding between the nanoparticles that Mother Nature uses to make biominerals of all types on demand,” said Tian.

Scientific reference: Enamel crystallite strength and wear: Nanoscale responses of teeth to chewing loadsJournal of the Royal Society Interface (2017).

Teeth

An Alzheimer’s drug could become the unlikely replacer of fillings

An Alzheimer’s drug could spell the end of fillings after scientists discovered that it causes teeth to regrow dentite, potentially repairing cavities from the inside out.

Teeth

Image credits dreverton9 / Pixabay.

King’s College, London researchers have found that Tideglusib, a drug investigated as a potential Alzheimer’s cure, stimulates the stem cells in teeth’s pulp so they construct new dentine — the mineralized layer under enamel. Teeth can naturally regrow dentine, but only if the pulp — the soft squishy bit inside the tooth — becomes exposed. Even so, they can only regrow a very thin layer, enough to protect the pulp but not enough to form a workable tooth. Tideglusib switches off an enzyme known as GSK-3 which inhibits the further formation of dentine.

The team showed that by soaking a biodegradable sponge with the drug and inserting it into a cavity, it triggers the growth of dentine and repairs the damage within six weeks.

“The simplicity of our approach makes it ideal as a clinical dental product for the natural treatment of large cavities, by providing both pulp protection and restoring dentine,” said Professor Paul Sharpe of the Dental Institute, KCL and lead author of the study.

“In addition, using a drug that has already been tested in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease provides a real opportunity to get this dental treatment quickly into clinics.”

No filler

Dentists currently treat cavities by filling them with artificial cements or calcium and silicon-based products. While fillings are very effective way of repairing large cavities, these materials don’t disintegrate so the tooth can’t regenerate its mineral layers. They’re also porous, fostering infection, and often need to be replaced quite a few times. In both cases, dentists have to remove an area larger than what is affected, then fill it back up. After a few such treatments, the tooth may need to be extracted.

Tideglusib offers a novel alternative that could represent a big step-up in dental care. Motivating our teeth to heal themselves would not only remove the issues associated with fillings, but create a less intrusive option for treatment. A laser method that can help regenerate dentine was developed a few months ago but is comparatively more invasive than the Tideglusib. As dental phobia is still very common, such a treatment would do wonders for patients who would otherwise have to overcome a lot of anxiety to go to the dentist’s.

The drug was shown to “fill the whole injury site” in mouse trials, and it been proven safe for human use in clinical trials with Alzheimer’s patients. So we might be seeing it in dentists’ offices pretty soon.

The full paper “Promotion of natural tooth repair by small molecule GSK3 antagonists” has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Scientists figure out where enamel came from

Enamel, the hard, mineralized substance that covers your teeth originated on tough fish scales and then migrated to the teeth, researchers found. In the latest issue of the journal Nature, researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden and the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing, China combined research from two very different fields of science (paleontology and genomics) to reach this conclusion.

Image via Morguefile.

Like other mammals, we humans have enamel only on our teeth, but some fish do feature “dermal denticles” – little tooth-like scales – on the outer surface of the body. These are a formidable defense, as enamel is the hardest substance produced by the body. Even more ancient fish, documented from fossils, have scales covered with an enamel-like tissue called “ganoine”; to make things even more interesting, some currently living, archaic fish also have this tissue. Tatjana Haitina, a researcher at the Department of Organismal Biology, Uppsala University, investigated the genome of such a fossil (Lepisosteus) and found that it contains genes for two of our three enamel matrix proteins. These genes were expressed in skin.

But then the question remained: where did enamel develop first? Did it first appear on fish scales and then somehow “migrated” to teeth, the other way around, or did it develop completely separately?

The answer to that question was provided by two fossils. Psarolepis from China and Andreolepis from Sweden, two species older than 400 million years have been studied by Qingming Qu and Per Ahlberg of Uppsala University in collaboration with Min Zhu from IVPP in Beijing. They found that the scales on their body and face were covered in enamel-like tissue, but their teeth were not.

Artistic representation of Psarolepsis. Image via Wikipedia.

“Psarolepis and Andreolepis are among the earliest bony fishes, so we believe that their lack of tooth enamel is primitive and not a specialization. It seems that enamel originated in the skin, where we call it ganoine, and only colonized the teeth at a later point,” explains Per Ahlberg, Professor of Evolutionary Organismal Biology at Uppsala University.

From what I found, this is the only study to combine paleontology and genomics to study the origin of enamel – or the study of any hard tissue for that matter. Psarolepsis is a genus of extinct lobe-finned fish which lived around 397 to 418 million years ago, while Andreolepis lived 420 million years ago.

Journal Reference: Qingming Qu, Tatjana Haitina, Min Zhu, Per Erik Ahlberg (2015) New genomic and fossil data illuminate the origin of enamel, Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature15259

Drinking energy drinks is like bathing your teeth in acid

Energy and sports drink do give you a quick rush when you might feel like nothing else can do the trick for you – but at a huge cost. Aside from all the other downsides, which include heart and stomach issues, researchers have now shown that people who drink this kind of drinks are essentially ‘bathing their teeth in acid’.

The study, published in the May/June 2012 issue of General Dentistry, examined the acidity levels in 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks to see how the drinks would impact a tooth’s enamel; the enamel is the hardest and most highly mineralized substance in the human body, protecting your teeth as much as possible. But even it can’t protect your teeth from everything. As researchers note, acidity levels vary between different brands, as well as between certain flavors of the same brand. In order to test what these drinks do to human teeth, they immersed tooth enamel into the drinks for no longer than 15 minutes, followed by an immersion in saliva for two hours, four times per day, over a five day period.

Arguably, this might not be the most accurate way of testing what these drinks do to you in reality, but it simulates what heavy drinkers face on a pretty even level. What they found was that even after only five days of such exposure, significant enamel damage was present, especially in the case of energy drinks, which were twice as harmful as sports drinks.

Perhaps just as worrying, is another report released by Dr. Poonam Jain, director of the community and preventive dentistry program at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsvill, who declared most people aren’t even aware of the dangers such drinks pose to their health. That’s especially true for teens – between 30 and 50 percent of teens have reported consuming energy drinks and up to 62 percent of teens saying they drink at least one sports drink per day, she said, in the startling study.

“Young adults consume these drinks assuming that they will improve their sports performance and energy levels and that they are ‘better’ for them than soda,” Jain said in the statement.

So what can be done? Nothing much, really. Common sense tips go a long way here (washing your teeth, visiting the dentist regularly, etc), but if you drink energy drinks, your teeth will suffer.