What types of drinks does your child drink in an average week?”
This is one of the handful of questions I ask every single parent when I am examining their child for the first time. Since I ask this question frequently, it puts me in a great position to make note of trends when it comes to drinks. Don’t get me wrong, improper hygiene and poor food choices are important risk factors that can influence a child’s risk for getting dental decay. Poor drink choices, however, is more influential than most people seem to realize.
“I told you to brush your teeth!” or “This is my child that really loves candy!” are common phrases I’ll hear parents say when I tell them a child has multiple cavities. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a parent say, “I knew that fruit juice was bad for you!” The real harm of poor drink choices for children is not fully appreciated.
Since I only have a limited time every day with each of my patients, I like to focus on the “liquid diet” when counseling parents for a number of reasons. First, it’s the most misunderstood concept out there, and I partially blame amazing marketing. Secondly, it’s probably one of the easiest things to fix as far as changing purchasing habits and behavior.
“It takes about four apples to get a glass of apple juice. Can you imagine a small child eating four large apples in a few minutes?”
Amazing marketing? That’s right. The reason most parents are shocked that cavities in children are often caused by beverages is because so many of these products are advertised as “healthy.” Let’s break down three popular choices: fruit juice, pouched drinks and sports drinks.
Fruit juice not being healthy is a shocker for many people, but I think the word is getting out. A piece of fruit has sugar and fiber. Both are fine in moderation. Fruit juice, however, is a heavy concentration of all of the sugar from several pieces of fruit. Moderation goes out the window! It takes about four apples to get a glass of apple juice. Can you imagine a small child eating four large apples in a few minutes? That’s a lot of sugar! Juice makes this unnecessarily high level of sugar intake possible.
Two recent trends of the drinks in pouches are:
• Being natural, organic and “real”
• Showing images of people surfing, living an active and healthy lifestyle
No matter what the package shows, there’s nothing healthy about sugar water in a silver pouch. Also, the bacteria in our mouths that cause dental decay aren’t discerning about where sugar comes from. Organic sugar cane and GMO corn syrup is all the same under a microscope.
Sports drinks essentially fall into the same category. “Athletes are healthy, and if they drink sports drinks, I’ll be healthy, too,” is the implied message we receive from these products. Daily consumption of these highly addictive drinks, even for fairly active children, is unhealthy, unnecessary and a leading cause of dental decay in children.
I challenge you, next time you are watching sports on TV, to look at what most professional athletes are drinking, even during high-intensity games. Water. Water is the best choice when it comes to hydrating our children’s bodies. Fluoridated water doesn’t cause cavities, it actually prevents them. It’s boring, but it’s true!
For more information visit www.rollingoaksdental.com or call 210.880.4120. Rolling Oaks Dental is located at 6826 North Loop 1604 E., Suite 102 in San Antonio, Texas 78247.