The Best & Worst Drinks for Your Child’s Teeth

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Energy drinks, sweet tea, fruit drinks, soda, blended coffee drinks, and the list of sugary drinks kids frequently consume could keep going. Why do dentists care what kids drink, you ask? It’s simple – too many sugary drinks hurt children’s teeth.

Not convinced? Here’s the math.

A recent statement by the American Heart Association encourages kids to consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugar daily, while more lenient sources say no more than 8 teaspoons of added sugar each day.

Here’s the truth about sugary drinks:

  • One serving size (8 oz.) of Kool-Aid (made with dry mix) contains 4 tsp. of sugar.
  • An 8.4 oz. can of Red Bull  contains around 6 tsp. of sugar.
  • One 8 oz. bottle of Coke contains 6.5 tsp. of sugar.
  • One 8 oz. bottle of Mott’s apple juice contains 7 tsp. of sugar.

And again, the list could keep on going.

The excessive sugar in these drinks lingers on kids’ teeth and serves as a “food” of sorts for the bacteria in their mouths that cause cavities. These bacteria will use sugar from the drinks to create acids that will wear down tooth enamel, causing tooth decay. The longer sugar stays on your kids’ teeth, the more it can damage their enamel, which is why dentists recommend immediately brushing away sugary residue after eating or drinking anything sugary. Similarly, your child should never eat or drink something sugary right before going to bed. Just imagine how much havoc that sugar could wreak when it has all night to do its dirty work.

Surprised by the amount of sugar in apple juice?

Commonly considered a healthy drink, fruit juice is regularly given to children. But just one bottle of it nearly takes up all of their recommended sugar for the day!

For younger kids, diluting a small amount of juice with significantly more water is better than serving them them a full cup of pure juice. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the healthiest way for your children to meet their fruit quota for the day is to the eat the actual fruit, not drink the sugary bottled juice.

The AAP makes several recommendations about fruit juice:

  • Don’t serve fruit juice to babies under the age of six months.
  • Children under six should have no more than 6 oz. of fruit juice a day.
  • Children age seven or older should have no more than 12 oz. of fruit juice a day.

So, what can your children drink regularly?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the best drinks for your kids are milk and water. Water with fluoride strengthens their teeth enamel and dilutes the previously mentioned cavity-causing acids in their mouth. It’s the best drink for kids to carry around in sippy cups and drink with their afternoon snack.

Water can quickly become boring to kids, so find ways to make it interesting. For older kids, drop fresh fruit or mint leaves into their glass of ice water, freeze small fruits into their ice cubes, or skip the ice altogether and chill their water with frozen grapes or melon balls that they can eat when they finish their water.  

Calcium-rich milk is also good for little teeth, but not in bed. Letting milk sit on your child’s teeth all night can cause dental problems such as baby bottle tooth decay. But milk is an excellent choice of drink to accompany their breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Managing sugar intake requires discipline, something children rarely have when it comes to sugary drinks. As a parent, you will need to determine how to regulate the sugar intake in your home and how to educate your children about the importance of taking care of their teeth. Find out what motivates your children. Family wide soda-free challenges and fun reward systems serve as good incentives for kids. Discover what else works for your family and pass the tips on to us. We’d love to hear!