7 Reasons Energy Drinks are Bad for You & Ruin Your Teeth

energy drink at store

Are energy drinks bad for you? Are they bad for teeth? Compared to the other go-to drinks like coffee or sports drinks, the truth might actually surprise you. Not just by the fact that energy drinks are worse than others, but just how bad they actually are to your mouth and body.  

What Are Energy Drinks?

Energy drinks can consist of a variety of different types of beverages. Most of them contain high caffeine content, sugar, and/or other types of stimulants to “get you going” when you drink them. It might not be caffeine at all; it could be a vitamin like B-6 or carnitine[1] (an amino acid that helps your body convert fat cells into energy.) They’re all different and have varying levels of ingredients.

Every time you turn around, there are new brands and blends of energy drinks at the store. Some of the most popular are things like Red Bull, Rockstar, Monster, and Celsius. Keep in mind that not all energy drinks are created equal. Bottom line, you’re just going to have to read a label every now and then to see just how “bad” a particular energy drink may be.

Why Are They Bad For You? 

If you’re wondering, “are energy drinks bad for you”, the important thing to remember is that anything—even if it’s “good”—can be bad for you if it’s not used in moderation. Technically you can die from drinking too much water all at one time. So, if you’re drinking too many energy drinks on a repeated basis, then yes, they are definitely bad for you. As something that’s ingested, the ingredients inside of an energy drink easily get absorbed into your body through your digestive tract and then cardiovascular system. That’s why they’re so fast acting and a go-to for someone looking for a quick energy rush.

1) A Strain To Your Heart  

First and foremost, let’s talk about how energy drinks are bad for your heart. Drinking energy drinks is proven to raise your blood pressure. And when you have high blood pressure, you’re statistically at a higher risk for heart attacks and strokes. Studies[2] prove that energy drinks can also increase your heart rate or can even cause you to experience heart palpitations. Cardiologists have seen that people who consume high amounts of caffeine can develop calcium deposits inside of their heart, which interferes with heart function.

Overall, blood flow is reduced and your blood pressure goes up, which creates a recipe for bad, bad cardiovascular side effects.

2) They’re Loaded With Sugar  

One tablespoon of sugar is the equivalent of about 12.5 grams. So, when you’re reading a label and it says “37 g” on it (like Red Bull) you’re drinking about 3 tablespoons of liquid sugar. Monster Energy is just a little less, at about 27 g. You get the picture. The CDC warns that some energy drinks contain as many as 27 TEASPOONS of sugar.[3]

Most energy drinks are going to have more sugar in them than soda or sports drinks, which are both super bad for teeth. Any time you’re drinking something that has sugar in it, those sugars basically coat every surface in your mouth. Including the deep grooves in your tooth enamel and between your teeth. AKA all of the places that are most cavity prone.

Ok, ok, ok. What about the “sugar free” energy drinks on the market? Are they still bad for teeth? Sadly, yes. Energy drinks have extremely low pH levels, so even if there’s not a sugar-like ingredient inside of them, the acidic nature of your energy drink can still erode your tooth enamel.  

3) Impact On Your Appearance

What’s in energy drinks? Caffeine. And what is caffeine? A diuretic. Yes, diuretics send you running to the bathroom constantly, but they also dry out your skin. Some dermatologists suggest giving up caffeine to help boost your skin’s appearance so that it doesn’t look as dry, dull, or aged. Yes, you could drink more water, but it’s unclear as to whether that makes a big enough difference to counteract your caffeine intake.

Some people argue that since caffeine is also an antioxidant, it might combat aging by reducing fine lines and wrinkles. But if you’re already sleep deprived or stressed and you’re drinking energy drinks to help with that, your skin probably isn’t going to benefit from it during the process.

While we’re talking about skin and appearance, some studies suggest that drinking too much caffeine (like what’s found in energy drinks) can trigger acne outbreaks

 4) Increase Health Risks For Teens 

Energy drinks can be especially dangerous for teens. Particularly if there are any underlying, undiagnosed heart conditions. A lot of teens may not realize they need to monitor how much caffeine they’re ingesting, which can predispose them to a cardiovascular emergency.

If your teen is drinking energy drinks to skip out on sleep, pull all-nighters studying for an exam, or just to get through the hectic life of being a student, it will ultimately take a toll on their health and natural sleep patterns. Not to mention probably give them lots of cavities. Teens may not realize how much caffeine they’re actually consuming, or they could potentially combine it with other substances/medications/activities/etc. which potentially prove to be life-threatening.  

5) Don’t Mix Energy Drinks With Alcohol  

Are energy drinks bad for you if they’re combined with alcoholic beverages? YES. In this case, they’re not just bad for you, they could be life-threatening.

According to the CDC[4], energy drinks can mask the effects of alcohol. Since alcohol is a depressant that makes you feel calm and relaxed, the energy drink can mask those sensations and make it feel as if the alcohol isn’t really doing anything. In turn, people get a false sense of awareness and tend to drink even more alcoholic beverages. Side effects can include increased blood alcohol levels, risks of drunk driving, over-intoxication, passing out, vomiting, etc.

Don’t combine alcohol and energy drinks. The risk simply isn’t worth it, and an energy drink won’t sober you up any quicker than you normally would after consuming an adult beverage.

Energy Drinks And Your Teeth

Are energy drinks bad for your teeth? Yes. Both physically and cosmetically.

1) Tooth Stain From Energy Drinks

First off, drinking energy drinks can cause stain and discoloration on your teeth. As with any colored liquid—such as coffee, tea, wine, soda, etc.—the dark particles can soak into the tiny pores across your enamel. So, if you’re drinking it on a regular basis, you’re probably going to see some discoloration in the front of your smile. While the stain might not seem as bad as what you get from soda or coffee, any colored energy drink will eventually start to cause dental stain.[5] Especially given the low pH levels that are etching your teeth at the same time.

2) Cavities From Energy Drinks

The biggest risk factor to your teeth from energy drinks is cavities. Besides being loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners, energy drinks have extremely acidic pH levels. They tend to be even more acidic than what you find in sports drinks or traditional soda in most cases.

Even though your tooth enamel is the hardest substance in your entire body, it’s not invincible. Etching your teeth with liquid acidic solutions day after day will start to wear your teeth out. Gradually as the enamel starts to thin, bacteria, sugar, and acids will also create cavities. The bad news is that the cavities tend to be scattered across your entire mouth, which can lead to sudden and major dental treatment needs in multiple teeth all at one time.

Are Occasional Energy Drinks Okay? 

Heart experts typically recommend a safe consumption of up to 400mg of caffeine per day. That’s about 5 cups of coffee. An energy drink might have somewhere around 80-160mg or MORE of caffeine. Mathematically, the occasional energy drink probably isn’t going to be detrimental to your body. But caffeine isn’t the only thing you have to worry about. With all of that sugar in energy drinks, how often you drink them, and the length of time you sip on them when you do, it’s all about exposure times. The occasional energy drink won’t destroy your teeth, but having a few each week could drastically increase your rate of tooth decay.  

Again, everything in moderation. If you’re having to do something important but struggling to stay asleep, or you’ve got a big event where you just really need an extra boost once in a while, the occasional energy drink is probably fine. But don’t make it part of your everyday routine.

Risks For Children And Teens 

Kids don’t need to be drinking energy drinks. First off, their bodies are smaller and the high dosages of caffeine are more than they can usually handle. Then there’s the fact that primary (baby) teeth are not nearly as strong as permanent (adult) teeth are. A child’s first set of teeth won’t be able to withstand the acidic pH or high sugar content of energy drinks on a regular basis.

According to the CDC, way back in 2011 there were almost 1,500 children between ages 12-17 who had to be treated in an emergency room because of an “energy drink related emergency.”

Some of those emergencies include things like dehydration and heart failure. Other side effects the CDC says you should be aware of are insomnia and anxiety. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns against giving energy drinks to children and adolescents.  

If your teen is asking for energy drinks, try to find out why. Are they getting enough sleep? Do they feel stressed out? Is it because their friends are drinking them? Drinking energy drinks does not make you “cool” in junior high. No, it’s not the same thing as smoking, but for someone that young it could be dangerous to their health.

Side Effects & Risks Energy Drinks   

One of the most common side effects of drinking too many energy drinks is weight gain. Not just from the increased calorie count, but also because of the “high glycemic load” that winds up affecting your blood glucose levels.

As you might guess, those glucose changes can significantly affect people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Drinking high-sugar drinks, energy or not, can increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes and conditions like gout.  

Cardiovascular incidents are another common side effect of energy drinks. From an irregular heartbeat to full-blown heart failure, there are some serious side-effects of drinking these beverages too frequently.

When To See Your Dentist

If you’re starting to experience tooth sensitivity or see staining on your teeth, it’s time to see your dentist. Bottom line, you at least need an exam and X-rays to screen for cavities. Energy drinks are not good for your teeth, so there’s a good chance you might need a prescription for fluoride at the least.