The findings support recent studies from the UK showing that sports drinks can cause serious damage to teeth. It underlines the need for manufacturers to look at new formulas that are less damaging.
"This study revealed that the enamel damage caused by non-cola and sports beverages was three to 11 times greater than cola-based drinks, with energy drinks and bottled lemonades causing the most harm to dental enamel," said lead author J. Anthony von Fraunhofer, from the University of Maryland Dental School.
A previous study in the July/August issue of General Dentistry demonstrated that non-cola and canned iced teas can more aggressively harm dental enamel than cola.
The study continuously exposed enamel from cavity-free molars and premolars to a variety of popular sports beverages, including energy drinks, fitness water and sports drinks, as well as non-cola beverages such as lemonade and ice tea for a period of 14 days (336 hours).
The exposure time was comparable to approximately 13 years of normal beverage consumption.
There was significant enamel damage associated with all beverages tested, report authors in the January/February issue of General Dentistry.
Lemonade, energy drinks and sports drinks caused the most damage with fitness water, ice tea and cola coming some way after. Most cola-based drinks may contain one or more acids, commonly phosphoric and citric acids but sports beverages contain other additives and organic acids that can advance dental erosion, said the authors.
However there are some solutions available to manufacturers operating in the $5 billion sports drink industry.
A recent study by researchers in the UK showed that a drink developed by GlaxoSmithKline with higher levels of calcium and a higher pH level than a regular sports drink showed dramatically reduced enamel erosion, to the same level as water.
Dutch whey ingredients firm Borculo Domo has also recently introduced a whey isolate that when included in a drink, coats the tooth enamel protecting it from other compounds in the drink.