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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. Teaching children their daily routines is particularly difficult.

Fortunately, 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 cans of soft drinks per week. More than 61 brands of sugar-sweetened beverages are produced in the nation. Shockingly, they come in at least 664 varieties.

These 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. Therefore, dental problems can arise.

What is Dental Erosion?

Also known as acid erosion, dental erosion is is the irreparable loss of enamel. Vomiting, acid backflow, and other ailments that induce the production of gastric acids toward the mouth can also lead erode the tooth structure.

What are Dental Caries?

Considered the most common oral condition, especially in children, dental caries (tooth decay) cause irreversible damage to the enamel that develops into tiny openings of the dentin.

Decay arises due to a combination of various factors. This includes frequent snacking, the buildup of bacteria, 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 extensive evidence that confirms the correlation between the 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 sugar, opting for drinks using sugar substitutes is a great idea. Sugar alternatives include saccharin, aspartame, stevia, xylitol, and sorbitol. While these non-sugar sweeteners are non-cariogenic alternatives, they still perpetuate cravings for sweet treats.

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

The Right Way to Hydrate

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. In turn, this signals the kidneys to release more water.

On the other hand, sports drinks are specifically formulated to hydrate the body. However, 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 eating 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 consuming acidic foods and drinks increases the likelihood of dental erosion.

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

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


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