Many parents encourage their children to eat healthy foods. However, did you know that what your child drinks is just as important as what your child eats?
Sugary drinks such as soda, juice, or punch can have a dramatic effect on your child’s oral and overall health. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly half of all added sugars consumed by Americans ages two and older come from sugary beverages. Many parents do not realize how much sugar is in their children’s drinks. For example, a 12-oz. serving of cola has 10-1/4 teaspoons of sugar, while a 12-oz. serving of 100% apple juice has 10.
Children who consume three or more cups of soft drinks or juice a day are more likely to have decayed or missing baby teeth. When your child consumes a sugary drink, the bacteria in your child’s mouth feast on the sugars and produce acids that can remove the protective enamel that coats our teeth. In addition to tooth decay, frequent consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Giving your child nature’s drink, water – especially fluoridated tap water –is a simple, low-cost way to help keep your child’s mouth healthy and cavity-free. Fluoride is nature’s way to fight cavities. It is a common element found in soil and fresh and ocean waters. For more than 75 years, dentists and scientists have known that fluoride makes teeth strong, resistant to decay, and is safe to use. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community water fluoridation is one of the greatest success stories for public health and improves people’s health and well-being in the United States. Most tap water in Maryland contains fluoride that prevents cavities, just like the fluoride in toothpaste.
Healthy mouths are important – especially for the overall health of babies and young children. Poor oral health can cause your child to have problems eating, speaking, and learning. Baby teeth are important because they leave space for adult teeth. Dental caries, the most common childhood disease, can be painful and lead to infections and other health problems. To help prevent cavities and keep your child’s mouth healthy:
- Eliminate sugary beverages such as soda, juice, or punch. Instead of fruit juice, give your child whole or cut fresh fruit.
- Do not give your infant juice of any kind during their first year of life.
- Give your child healthy drinks such as fluoridated tap water or milk. It is best to give your child milk at scheduled mealtimes, as saliva production increases during meals and helps control the acids produced by the bacteria in your mouth.
- Don’t put your baby down with a bottle or sippy cup at naptime or night. If you must give your baby a bottle or sippy cup, make sure it’s filled with tap water.
- Drink more water. Most tap water in Maryland contains fluoride that prevents cavities.
- Make drinking water fun for your child. Try adding slices of fruit or cucumber. Freeze fresh fruits and use them as ice cubes in a glass of water. Flavor the water with herbs such as mint. Let your child chose their own drink bottle or serve water in colorful glasses or pitchers. Find colorful or bendy straws, or freeze water in fun-shaped ice trays.
- Be a role model – avoid sugary beverages and make a point of drinking tap water with your child.
Healthy beverage choices, regular dental visits, and proper oral hygiene can keep your child’s mouth cavity-free for life. Maryland’s Medicaid dental program, Maryland Healthy Smiles, provides free dental care for children from birth to 20 years old and mothers during pregnancy.
For more tips on how to keep your child’s mouth healthy and cavity-free, please visit Healthy Teeth, Healthy Kids.