Parents often want to know how long to wait before feeding their children following fluoride treatment. This procedure is usually done to remineralize the teeth and strengthen them against cavities or decay. The time before patients can eat or drink may depend on the fluoride varnish used. When it comes down to food choices, the…
Why a Pediatric Dentistry Recommends Limiting Sugary Drinks
Many young children have a sweet tooth and enjoy sugar-filled treats. However, pediatric dentistry professionals recommend limiting sweets for children, especially sugary beverages. Making a habit of consuming these types of drinks can be harmful to a child's dental and overall health.
The risks of too many sugary drinks
Sugar plays a major role in tooth decay and can lead to significantly more cavities when consumed in excess or on a routine basis. Sugars create a chemical reaction in the mouth that promotes a more acidic environment, breaking down tooth enamel in the process. Some sugars can also be an energy source for harmful bacteria. Artificial sugars have a tendency to create a coating or film that expedites enamel breakdown, making way for bacteria to penetrate and cause tooth decay.
Saliva helps wash sugars and bacteria off the surfaces of teeth, so the occasional treat partnered with good oral hygiene and routine pediatric dentistry visits should not be an issue. However, sweetened beverages present more of a problem than some candies and baked goods, even with daily brushing. Sipping on a sweet drink exposes the teeth to more sugar, especially over a long period of time, making enamel erosion much more likely. This is true of anything with both natural and added sugar, including:
- Coffee or tea sweetened with sugar
- Flavored milk
- Fruit juices
- Sports drinks
- Fruit-flavored beverages
Every time your child takes a sip of a sweet drink, they are reintroducing sugar and restarting the cycle that leads to acid erosion. For this reason, sweetened drinks should be reserved for rare, special occasions. When your child does enjoy a sugary beverage, give them a limited amount of time to finish it; do not let them sip on it throughout the day.
Drinking sweetened beverages can also increase the risks of obesity, diabetes, kidney problems, liver damage, and heart disease, even in children. There are little to no health benefits of drinking sugary drinks, even 100% juice. The downsides of consuming excess sugar and calories outweigh the nutritional advantage of a few vitamins and minerals. These drinks do not hydrate as well as water either. Unless a doctor instructs you to offer juice to your child for digestive concerns or to elevate blood sugar levels quickly, it will likely do more harm than good.
Healthy beverage alternatives for children
Water is the most important beverage for your child's health and should be provided throughout the day to maintain proper hydration levels. When your child is thirsty, water should be your go-to solution. Milk is another drink that offers many nutritional benefits and plays an important role in development while strengthening teeth and bones. It does contain some natural sugars, so offer it only at meal time as a beverage once your child outgrows a bottle. Sipping on milk throughout the day can also lead to more cavities, so keep your child's favorite cup filled with water instead.
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In general, sugary beverages should be viewed as a treat, not as an everyday option for children. Following a pediatric dentistry professional's recommendations about sugar and sweet drinks can help protect your child's teeth and gums while maintaining overall health.
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