Dr. Laura Goodell D.M.D., Pediatric Dentist
Many people know that candy, cookies, and other sweets have tons of sugar in them, but it’s important to know that drinks are culprits for unnecessary sugars too. In fact, sugary drinks are the top source of added sugars in kids’ diets! Beverages like sports drinks, sodas, fitness waters, and fruit juice have many teaspoons of sugar in them and also harmful acid. Read on to learn what drinks have the most sugar in them!
Best Drinks for Kids’ Teeth
Water and milk are really the best drink options for children and teens. I recommend avoiding fruit juice, soda and sports drinks. If you’re looking for a little flavor, try stirring in a tiny bit of sugar-free Crystal Light mix – it’s free of harmful sugars and just gives a hint of flavor to your water.
Worst Drinks for Kids’ Teeth
What drinks have the most sugar in them*? Check out the beverages below to see if any of your child’s favorite drinks make the list!
- Sunkist Orange Soda – 13 tsp
- Barq’s Root Beer – 11 tsp
- Coca Cola Classic – 10 tsp
- Red Bull – 10 tsp
- Sprite – 10 tsp
- Minute Maid Lemonade – 10 tsp
- Orange juice – 7 tsp
- Gatorade – 7 tsp
How Sugar Affects Teeth
Sugar converts to acid in just 20 seconds! Try singing “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” in your head. In just that short amount of time, any sugar on your child’s teeth from food and drink will turn into acid and begin attacking their enamel. Over time, that acid eats away at the protective coating on their teeth and begins to cause cavities. It’s also important to note that kids and teens are more susceptible to tooth decay because their enamel is not fully developed and is less resistant to the acid. Learn more in my blog post how sugar affects baby teeth.
Are Diet Sodas Okay to Drink?
Though diet sodas don’t have harmful sugars like regular sodas, they’re still extremely high in acid. In fact, a can of Diet Coke has a pH level of 3.1. For reference, water has a neutral pH level of 7.0 and battery acid is extremely acidic with a pH level of 1.0.
The effects of drinking acidic beverages like sports drinks, lemonade, orange juice and regular and diet soda begin almost immediately and continue for 20 minutes – the amount of time it takes saliva to neutralize the acid. With every sip, the 20-minute acid attack starts again.
Drink Recommendations for Kids
Here are some quick recommendations to help keep your child’s teeth healthy:
- Children should drink only water between meals.
- Limit milk and juice consumption to mealtimes. Children should have no more than 4 ounces of juice per day.
- Don’t put children to bed with a bottle or glass of milk. Milk contains a lot of sugar and will essentially pool around the child’s teeth all night resulting in baby bottle tooth decay.
- Young children should not consume sports drinks or diet or regular soda.
- Unfortunately, roughly 30 percent of children consume two or more sugary beverages a day – according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (study findings based on consumption between 2011 and 2014).
Drink Recommendations for Adults
Remember to take care of your teeth too! Here are some ways you can lower your sugar intake and keep harmful acids off your teeth:
- Drink soda in moderation. Do not consume more than one 12-ounce can a day.
- Use a straw to keep the sugar away from teeth.
- Swish your mouth with water after drinking soda or sports drinks to dilute the acid and sugar.
- Chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva production and cleanse your mouth.
- Drink plenty of water – I recommend eight glasses a day.
- Don’t drink soda right before bedtime.
Here’s some food for thought:
- Today’s teens drink three times more soda than 20 years ago, often using it as a replacement for milk.
- A bottle of soda in the ‘50s was 6.5 ounces. Today, a 12-ounce can is standard and even a 20-ounce bottle is common.
- Larger container sizes mean more calories, more sugar and more acid in a single serving. A 64-ounce "Big Cup" has more than five cans of soda in a single serving!
Remember that sugary drinks can negatively impact your child’s health in a number of ways. In addition to cavities, overconsumption is associated with weight gain, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol in children, which is why we recommend avoiding sugary beverages all together. If you have any questions about your child’s diet and how it affects their teeth, request an appointment below and my team will be happy to help!