We already know that sugary drinks are dangerous for the teeth. In children, they are especially dangerous because they not only cause cavities, but excess sugar can also cause obesity and diabetes, among other things. Currently, dental caries, or cavities, are the No. 1 chronic disease in children, according to the National Institute of Health. This translates to missed school due to dental pain and dental appointments. American children miss more than 9 million school days per year due to oral health issues, according to a survey by Delta Dental.
Many studies have been launched to help combat these issues, and parents have been urged to cut sugary beverages like sports drinks, sodas and fruit juices from their children’s diets. But until recently little attention has been paid to sugar-free drinks such as diet sodas. Now, a new study in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) has taken a closer look at the effects of diet or sugar-free beverages on children’s teeth.
The study showed that while fruit juices, sodas and sports drinks did in fact increase children’s risk of cavities, the diet and sugar-free beverages had a “neutral effect” on the teeth, similar to that of water.
So, what can we take away from this study? For starters, it tells us that sugar really is as bad for the teeth as we thought, but it also tells us that artificial sweeteners are relatively safe. That being said, that doesn’t mean it’s a green light for loading children up with sugar-free beverages, either. The important takeaway is that if your child does want an occasional soda or sugary beverage, it’s better to give them the diet version than the full-sugar version. But parents beware: Caffeine is still bad for children, so severely limiting this type of beverage is the best course of action, especially when it comes to soda.
The best bet for beverages for children is still milk, which is great for the teeth and bones, and water, which is beneficial for the whole body. Also, remember that when you do serve your child any kind of beverage to have them brush their teeth afterward to clear away any sugar or chemicals the drinks may leave behind.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Abelar, please contact the office at 858-523-1400.