In any discussion about a child’s oral health, sugary drinks usually make an appearance. While soda tends to get the worst rap of all—with good reason—there’s another beverage that deserves our attention. Many people view juice as a healthy drink since it’s made from fruit, but it can be almost as bad for your child’s teeth as soft drinks are!
Here at Children’s Dental Center, we want to ensure your child’s smile gets off to a great start. That’s why we encourage you to help them brush and floss from an early age, limit sweets, and bring them in for a checkup every six months or so. Understanding more about how juice can cause cavities is a step in the right direction, too, so keep reading below to learn more about the link between fruit juices and tooth decay.
Know what’s in your child’s cup
The human mouth is home to millions and millions of oral bacteria. At all times, these bacteria are eating the sugar that’s on or around our teeth and releasing acids as they do so. Those acids weaken the tooth enamel, which can make the teeth more susceptible to cavities. The more sugar a child consumes, the happier those bacteria are, and the more cavities are likely to crop up.
Most parents know to avoid giving their young children soda, but what about juice? As it turns out, several types of juices contain just as much sugar as a can of soda—and some actually contain more!
For example, an 8-ounce glass of soda contains about 22 grams of sugar, while an 8-ounce glass of orange juice contains 21 grams. At the end of the day, oral bacteria couldn’t care less whether their sugar source is coming from a soft drink or a glass of OJ—they’re going to gobble it all up anyway.
Pay attention to the acidic elements
The sugar content in fruit juice is bad enough, but there are other reasons to avoid putting it in your child’s sippy cup. Many fruit juices are very high in acidic content, including lemonade, apple juice, and orange juice. When this acid reacts with the bacteria already in a child’s mouth plus sugar from the juice, it can cause lesions or soft spots to form in the tooth’s protective enamel. This weakens the enamel and increases the risk of developing tooth decay, which only compounds the cavity-causing effects of juice!
Some research has found that every time a child takes a sip of juice, an acid attack begins on their teeth. This battle can rage for up to 20 minutes at a time, which may not seem very long, but wait! Each sip they take after the first one starts that 20-minute clock all over again.
While most nutritionists would say fruit juices are a good alternative to sugary soft drinks, what’s acceptable for our bodies isn’t always great for our teeth. If a child drinks fruit juice more than three times a day, it can actually cause more damage to their smile than many popular soft drinks.
Tips for preventing tooth erosion
We all know that excess sugar is the perfect recipe for cavities. Even fruit juices that have naturally occurring sugars are still high in sugar! And that’s before we look at all the added sugar in commercially available fruit juices. Still, many kids love having a juice box with lunch or a glass of apple juice with dinner. If this sounds like your child, here are some helpful tips for enjoying juice in moderation and reducing tooth decay.
Don’t let them linger
Frequent contact with the sugar in juices is the real problem. If your child is drinking juice all day long, the teeth are in constant contact with those harmful sugars and acids. Encourage your child to drink their juice during meal times, which will limit the amount of time their teeth interact with high acid and sugar content.
Use a straw
Having your child use a straw to drink juice is a great way to decrease the amount of time it’s touching their teeth. This limited contact means the teeth aren’t immersed in liquid, giving the acid less time to coat them and cause damage.
Substitute acidic beverages with water
Without question, water is the greatest beverage in the world. It’s hydrating, good for your oral health, and helps flush out food particles that may be lingering in the mouth. Unfortunately, some kids find it boring and don’t want to have anything to do with it. If you can’t convince your child to drink a full glass of water, get creative! Water down their juice so they’re getting the best of both worlds without even realizing it.
Switch to whole fruit juice (or the whole fruit!)
Fruit juice isn’t all bad. It can be beneficial to a child’s body in its natural form! Unfortunately, most store-bought juice has added sugar and other additives. Switch to whole fruit juice where you can to maximize the health benefits and minimize harmful sugars.
Eating whole fruits is even better! The sugar is less concentrated, and the fiber helps to limit contact with the tooth enamel. Have your child chomp down on an apple or a handful of grapes to satisfy their craving and keep their teeth healthy and strong.
Children’s Dental Center is here to help
Most juices are fine in moderation, just don’t offer them to your child on a daily basis. Teach them to consider juice and other sugary drinks as an occasional treat, not something to be expected whenever they ask for it!
Our practice is passionate about keeping your child’s smile looking and feeling great. We’re able to do that by working as a team with you and your child! If you have any questions or concerns about their oral health, get in touch today to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced dentists!