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The Bitter Truth About Sugary Drinks On Kid’s Oral Health

Parenting is one of the greatest joys and challenges in life. The daily routine, from teaching values to getting them ready for bed, is difficult.

So what’s to be done about the tantalizing treats they see every day? Your dentists, pediatricians, and yourself can steer them in the right direction. But why is this important?

Based on a study conducted by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, kids in the United States consume a minimum of six can or bottle of soft drinks per week. More than 61 brands of sugar-sweetened beverages are produced in the nation and they come in at least 664 varieties.

They include flavored waters, sodas, smoothies, fruit drinks, and sports drinks. Sadly, when the sugar and starch components of these products come in contact with the bacteria in the mouth, it causes an acidic reaction that can lead to dental erosion.

What is Dental Erosion?

Also known as acid erosion, dental erosion is characterized by the irreparable loss of enamel due to repeated immersion to acidic chemicals. Vomiting, acid backflow, and other illnesses that induce the production of gastric acids towards the mouth can also lead erode the tooth structure.

What is Dental Caries?

Considered as the most prevalent chronic oral disease, especially in children, dental caries (tooth decay) cause irreversible damage to the enamel that develops into tiny openings that penetrate the dentin. Decay is caused by a combination of various factors, which include frequent snacking, bacteria in the mouth, sipping sugary beverages, and inadequate oral hygiene. The acid-producing bacteria that proliferate with the interaction of sugar, eat up the enamel until a cavity is created.

Sugar Consumption Frequency

There is an extensive and definite evidence that establishes the correlation between the severity and prevalence of dental erosion and caries with the amount and frequency of sugar consumed. With a pH level of 2 to 3, fizzy drinks can significantly cause tooth structure loss.

Instead of using sugar, sweetened drinks are encouraged to use sugar substitutes, such as saccharin, aspartame, xylitol, and sorbitol. While these non-sugar sweeteners are considered non-cariogenic alternatives, they still perpetuate the kid’s cravings for sweet treats.

The burden is now passed onto parents to influence their children to eat less cariogenic foods and drinks, and for dental professionals to counsel their patients regarding proper dietary habits.

The Right Way to Hydration

When the aim is staying hydrated, drinking carbonated sodas can actually cause dehydration. Aside from sugar, the majority of sodas contains caffeine. Both sugar and caffeine affect the production of anti-diuretic hormones in the body, signaling the kidney to release more water.

Sports drinks, on the other hand, may be specifically formulated to hydrate the body, but those with high sugar content can cause cavities.

The best way to combat daytime fatigue is to stick with water. It keeps the body well-hydrated and won’t cause any damage to the teeth like caffeinated drinks and sodas.

Do’s and Don’ts of Hydration


  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day
  • Use a straw to minimize the level of teeth and sugar contact
  • Drink carbonated drinks in moderation
  • Water down the acid and sugar in the mouth right after drinking if brushing is not doable at the moment


  • Graze (eat in place of a full meal) on sports drinks, fruit juices, or sodas
  • Drink carbonated drinks shortly before sleeping
  • Drink for an extended period of time
  • Brush immediately after a meal. Doing so after the consumption of acidic foods and drinks increases the likelihood of dental erosion.

Drinking a can of sugary drink won’t harm your kid, as long as it is done in moderation. Optimal oral care and healthy eating habits are vital aspects to minimize the potentiality of tooth decay and erosion. Other tips for ensuring the stability of your kid’s overall oral health includes reading the nutritional information on products, drinking fluoridated water and using the right toothpaste, regular brushing and flossing, and consistent dental office visits.

For more information on sugary drinks, check out this report on sugary drinks by Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity here.


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