Disclosure :: This post was written by Dr. Allyn Clause of Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry.
Rethink Your Drink
It matters what we drink.
Early childhood is the time to establish healthy dietary patterns to help prevent future lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Early childhood is also a time where beverage intake is critical to support healthy nutrition making it matter what we drink. Many beverages contain added sugars and saturated fats that are harmful when consumed in excess. When children over consume unhealthy beverages they become at risk for many chronic diseases including dental caries. Beverage choices in the first five years of a child’s life set the tone for their future health choices. Juice and other sugary beverage consumption have a direct correlation with dental caries and other chronic health ailments.
Sip through the day, get decay.
Soft drinks have become a daily habit for an increasing number of people including children and teens. This steady diet of soft drinks is a leading cause of tooth decay. The sugar in soft drinks and other sugar-laden beverages such as Capri Sun or sweetened tea combine with bacteria in the oral cavity to create acid. Acid is also found in diet soda or drinks labeled sugar-free. This acid attacks teeth causing the enamel to become weakened. When the enamel is weakened this allows bacteria to cause cavities. Acid also causes more damage to tooth structure that is below the gum line which can worsen recession. This is more of a concern for adults. Each acid attack from sugary beverages lasts twenty minutes! That is twenty minutes before the the pH of the oral cavity returns to a neutral level. Therefore, taking frequent sips of something sugary results in constant acid attacks to the teeth throughout the day, significantly increasing the risk of developing cavities.
What should we drink then?
Water is the healthiest option. It is not laden with needless sugars, acid, or calories. Water also has a neutral pH which allows the oral cavity to work with saliva to re-mineralize enamel.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend breast milk, infant formula, water, and plain milk as part of beverage guidelines for children under age five. Flavored milk options such chocolate, strawberry or vanilla add unnecessary sugar to a child’s diet and are not recommended by both the AAPD and AAP. It is best for children to enjoy their milk at certain times such as during meals to limit the duration that the milk in able to stay on teeth. It is never recommended for a child to go to bed with milk as it can put the child at risk for dental caries. This is commonly referred as “baby bottle decay.”
What should we avoid?
It is recommended that children between the ages of 1 and 4 have no more than 4oz of juice in a day and no more than 6oz of juice for a child over the age of 4. And as we said above, do not sip on it throughout the day, which prolongs acid attacks. Along with causing cavities, some juices such as white grape juice contain certain minerals that can cause discoloration of teeth if consumed in excess.
Sports drinks such as Gatorade are useful to replenish electrolytes after vigorous activities, but it is important to monitor the amount of intake and duration, because these drinks are very high in sugar! Water or electrolyte water are better options than sports drinks for oral health.
At Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry, we believe firmly in education about oral health and cavity prevention. Many of our older patients who started out with us young will thank us as adolescents, stating that we gave them the tools early on in childhood to set up healthy oral habits as they became adults. So many simple steps, like the ones we described above, can go a long way in setting up your child with a healthy smile for life!
Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry offers an in-house dental savings plan that many parents have found to be a much better solution to dental insurance. Call the office at (337) 443-9944 for more information!
Other Dental Related Topics that May Be of Interest ::
- Why Does My Child Have White Spots on Their Teeth?
- Why Do Baby Teeth Matter?
- What if My Kid Freaks Out at the Dentist?
- Tips on Weaning Your Little One From Thumb & Finger Sucking
- Sleep Disordered Breathing: More Common Than You Think!
- Why Take X-Rays Routinely at the Dentist?
- Teething Toddler Woes: Tips and Tricks For Relief
- The Most Common Causes of Cavities
- Four Reasons Moms Should Reconsider Fruit Snacks
- Why Is My Child Grinding Their Teeth At Night?
- The Truth About Tongue and Lip-Ties
- The Most Common Causes Of Discolored Teeth
About the author
Dr. Allyn LaCombe Clause is a pediatric dentist at Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry. She is a native of Eunice and is thrilled to be living close to home again, serving the little patients of the Acadiana area! DR. CLAUSE RECEIVED HER DOCTORATE FROM THE LSU SCHOOL OF DENTISTRY IN 2021 AND COMPLETED AN ADDITIONAL TWO YEARS OF A PEDIATRIC DENTISTRY RESIDENCY AT LSU AFTERWARD. Dr. Clause and her husband Adam are proud parents of their beautiful daughter Azalea! When she’s not occupied with being a mother or taking care of baby teeth, she enjoys playing tennis and pickle ball. She’s even working on a children’s book!