Because of savvy and sometimes confusing marketing, well-meaning parents can easily become overwhelmed in the grocery store. Oftentimes, fruit-flavored drinks with no actual fruit juice, but plenty of sugar or sweeteners, are shelf neighbors to whole fruit juice or low-sugar options. Remarkably, two-thirds of the $2.2 billion in beverages marketed to children contain sweeteners, according to the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a daily limit of 25 grams of sugar, or six teaspoons, for children. Some lunchbox beverage favorites can contain anywhere from 8 to 20 grams of sugar or more. And just one 20-ounce soda has the same amount of sugar as 14 cookies or five doughnuts. Yikes!
What are all of these sugary, fizzy and artificially sweetened drinks doing to our kids’ teeth? While fluoride in our community drinking water has dramatically reduced the amount of tooth decay, tooth erosion is a new phenomenon that is on the rise.
Tooth erosion is the chemical loss of enamel due to acidic drinks, such as soft drinks, sports drinks and juices. Enamel is the protective outer layer of our teeth. Milk, water and fluoride can help build enamel. Unfortunately, for many kids, the balance is tipping in favor of acidic and sugary drinks.
Drinks Destroy Teeth, a program of the Indiana Dental Association, was established to inform the public about the potentially harmful oral health effects of drinking acidic and sugary drinks.
According to the DDT website (drinksdestroyteeth.org), “The over-consumption of sugary, acidic drinks, such as boxed juice, sports drinks, energy drinks and soft drinks, is reversing more than 50 years of public health gains.” Surprisingly, sports and energy drinks can wreak the most havoc. When you go to drink one of these beverages, you are usually dehydrated. The lack of saliva allows for the acidic, sugary sports drink to effectively destroy your enamel.
So, what can be done? Dr. Dennis Lambert of Cincy Kids Teeth in Cincinnati advises his patients to “drink carbonated water instead of soda,” he says. “Soda and sports drinks are loaded with sugar and often contain phosphoric and citric acids that wear away tooth enamel. If you can’t give up carbonated beverages or sweet drinks, opt for fresh fruit juice.”
While it might be challenging to curb sugary, acidic drinks, the long-term benefits of doing so can’t be denied. Here are some tips for limiting the effect of sweetened drinks on your family’s teeth:
- * Limit acidic drinks
- * Use a straw to draw the liquid away from your teeth
- * Never drink acidic drinks when you have a dry mouth
- * Drink water to rehydrate and return the mouth to a neutral pH
- * Wait one hour to brush after drinking a sports drink or soft drink to allow enamel to re-harden