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Energy Drinks Causing Dental Disease In Young Athletes

BOSTON (CBS) - Jon Salisbury from Billerica played sports for years.

"I played soccer in high school for four years. I ran track for four years," Jon said. "And I played soccer in college for three years."

The last injury he thought he'd suffer was one to his teeth.

"I'm 25. I've had two root canals already," Jon said.

Root canals at such a young age? From playing sports? Well, not from the sports per se. But it's what young athletes are drinking while playing sports that is doing the damage.

"On any given day, I'd drink at least half a gallon of Gatorade to prepare for it, if not more, and that didn't include if I had an energy drink," admits Jon.

"This is a disease that we know how to stop, and dental disease is the most widespread disease in the world," said Dr. Peter Arsenault, Division Head of Operative Dentistry at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.

Dr. Arsenault is also Jon's dentist. He says it's the sugar in these sports and energy drinks that becomes food for bacteria in your mouth and the waste generated is an acid that ruins teeth.

"It's almost an epidemic because we're seeing young people emulate athletes," Dr. Arsenault said. "And it's being supplied now in high schools and colleges and even at the youth levels where kids are drinking Gatorade. There's a lot of marketing that goes into it."

There are other products on store shelves like energy gels and beans that claim to restore an athlete's stamina and electrolytes.

Dr. Arsenault says for most people these products are unnecessary and potentially harmful. "Truthfully," he says, "You can probably just get by with regular water."

Jon is now an officer in the National Guard but almost didn't qualify because of his dental issues. He says if he had to do it all over again, he'd cut down on those sugary drinks.

"It had all these adverse effects that I never foresaw," said Jon.

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