Oral Health Group

High Performance Athletes = High Performance Caries

January 1, 2015
by David R. Farkouh, BSc, DMD, MSc, FRCD(C)

Just the other day in my office, I saw a 14-year-old patient for his recall exam. I have been seeing him since he was five years old. He is one of those few patients, who up until now, has been caries free and has had impeccable oral hygiene. I hadn’t seen him for a year due to the fact that he has been busy with his competitive hockey and he had missed his last six-month recall exam. Upon examining his bitewing radiographs, I just about had a heart attack! He had seven interproximal carious lesions present, which were well into the dentin and all requiring restorations. The first thing I did was pull out his bitewings from the previous year to use as a comparison. As I thought, none of the lesions were present in the previous images. The discussion with the child and his shocked mother then turned to “what have you been doing differently over the last year?” I found out that all he has been drinking, on and off the ice, has been energy sports drinks. His mother has been buying them by the case because they were under the impression that they will make him a better athlete and keep him hydrated while playing hockey.

Indidviduals like this present themselves to dental offices across Canada on a daily basis. Energy sports drinks are marketed to young athletes to enhance their performance on the field, court or ice, to give the athlete that added advantage. In fact, what they are doing is exposing children to extraordinarily high levels of sugar, which are super-charging the cariogenic bacteria in their mouth rather than super-charging the athlete. In August of this year, the Ontario Dental Association (ODA) issued a warning about the harmful effects of sports drinks. The ODA recommends that athletes hydrate themselves during sporting events with plain water. This will provide the hydration without the high levels of sugar that sports drinks carry along with them.


As the dentists of these young aspiring athletes, we need to be proactive in warning our patients of the dental implications of drinking sports drinks. If we educate our patients properly we will prevent future disasters like the one explained earlier. This is especially true for our young patients undergoing orthodontic treatment. We also need to include the parents in the discussion because they are the ones who are buying the sports drinks for their children. I routinely make a quick phone call to the parents of my teenage patients who come on their own to their dental appointments to fill them in on recommendations that may have gone in one ear and out the other.

We have our children in sports to encourage them to live a healthy lifestyle. Let’s make sure that happens by discouraging them from drinking high sugar content sports drinks while performing the sports they love. OH

David R. Farkouh, BSc, DMD, MSc, FRCD(C)
David Farkouh is a paediatric dentist working in a private practice in Toronto, ON, and is a staff paediatric dentist in the Department of Dentistry at The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto. Dr. Farkouh is the paediatric dentistry editor for Oral Health.

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