Soft Drinks and Your Child’s Oral Health

soft drinks and your child's oral health (1)

Did you know that a recent Gallup poll found that 48% of Americans consume an average of 2.6 soft drinks a day? Even though most people associate soft drinks with soda, soft drinks also include beverages such as fruit juices, iced teas, and sports drinks. As tasty as soft drinks are, they are also unfortunately loaded with ingredients that are detrimental to your child’s oral health. 

pile of sugar cubes in the foreground with boy drinking soda in the background

For starters, many soft drinks use large amounts of sugar to give them their delightful flavor. However, sugars are the main food source of the bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease. After feeding on sugar, bacteria will excrete an acidic waste product on the tooth enamel that will eventually erode it and cause a cavity. Additionally, excess bacteria that collect along the gum line can cause the gums to become infected. Simply stated, the more sugar your child consumes, the more they feed harmful bacteria, and their risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease increases. 

In addition to large amounts of sugar, some soft drinks are also highly acidic and can either erode the tooth enamel and/or speed up the progression of cavity formation. Sodas in particular are known for containing tartaric, phosphoric, and/or citric acids. Even sugar-free soft drinks will often still contain some form of acid. 

With that being said, it is not always realistic to avoid soft drinks completely. Therefore, there are some guidelines you can follow to decrease the detrimental effects that soft drinks have on your child’s oral health: 

Quantity Control

The first way you can decrease the detrimental effects soft drinks have on your child’s oral health is to control the amount of soft drinks they consume on a regular basis. Try to encourage your child to drink more milk and water on a regular basis, while saving soft drinks for certain occasions. This way soft drinks do not become part of your child’s daily routine. 

Watch the Time

young girl drinking her drink with a crazy straw

Another way to easily decrease the amount of damage to your child’s oral health is to limit the amount of time your child spends drinking a soft drink. As soon as your child starts drinking, the sugars and acids in the drink start damaging their tooth enamel. The damaging effects of sugars and acids will continue until about 20-30 minutes after your child takes their final sip. Therefore, limiting the amount of time your child drinks their soft drink limits the amount of time their teeth are actively being damaged. 

Give Them a Straw

When allowing your child to drink soft drinks, you can also use a straw to protect their teeth. Since straws are designed to direct liquids to the back of the mouth, they limit the amount of contact sugars and acids have with the tooth enamel. The less contact sugars and acids have with tooth enamel, the less likely dental issues are. 

Rinse

After your child is done drinking their soft drink, you should also encourage them to take a few sips of water or milk to clean their mouth. Both beverages are ideal since they will wash away harmful bacteria and acids produced by these bacteria, as well as acids found in soft drinks. 

Don’t Forget Teeth Cleanings

Finally, professional teeth cleaning every six months becomes extremely important when your child regularly consumes soft drinks. These cleanings are intended to remove any excess plaque, bacteria, and tartar from the surface of your child’s teeth. Simply stated, dental cleanings help maintain your child’s oral health by removing the bacteria responsible for dental issues like tooth decay and gum disease. 

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