Mmm … sugar: Most kids love it. Most adults do, too. It’s that sugary sweetness that makes sodas, fruit drinks, and energy drinks so irresistible to people of all ages.
But guess what? The bacteria that cause tooth decay love sugar, too. When your child drinks a sweet beverage, those bacteria get the energy they need to grow and multiply — and that’s bad news for your child’s teeth.
At Dental Kidz Club, we know your child’s dental health depends a lot on you and what you do at home. That includes even simple behaviors, like helping your child choose healthy beverages. In this post, our team helps you understand the oral health dangers associated with common kids’ drinks, and what you can do to reduce those dangers and protect your child’s healthy smile.
ABCs of cavities
A tooth is made up of layers: the hard outer enamel layer, the bony dentin layer, and the softer pulp portion at the center of the tooth. Enamel is super strong — in fact, it’s the strongest material in your body, even stronger than bone.
A cavity begins when the enamel layer is damaged. Even a tiny area of damage is plenty of space for decay-causing bacteria to get in, allowing the cavity to grow and spread to the deeper layers.
Now, on its own, sugar doesn’t cause cavities — but it does initiate a chain of events that causes the enamel to weaken and erode. And once again, it has to do with those sugar-loving bacteria.
The problem with sugary drinks
Your child’s mouth (and yours, too) is naturally full of bacteria — some good bacteria that aid in digestion and keeping your mouth healthy, and some “bad” bacteria that cause tooth decay and infections.
When your child drinks sweetened beverages, like soda, sports drinks, and yes, even fruit juices, the sugar attracts “bad” bacteria that thrive by consuming those sugars and sweeteners. As the bacteria “eat” the sugar, they produce sticky plaque film and harmful acids that attack your tooth enamel (a process called acid erosion).
Normally, the acid-base balance (also called the pH balance) of the mouth helps counteract the damaging effects of acid erosion. But when your child drinks a sugary beverage, the bad bacteria multiply more rapidly, producing a lot more acid than normal. That disrupts the natural pH balance, making it easier for the acids to destroy the protective outer enamel layer.
On top of that, sodas, energy drinks, and many fruit beverages (including “natural” fruit juice) contain acids that can speed up the erosion process. In essence, these drinks give your child’s teeth a one-two punch that can significantly increase the risk of developing cavities.
Preventing tooth decay
Obviously, one of the best ways to prevent cavities caused by sugary drinks is to eliminate those beverages from your child’s diet. Water is a great drink for rehydrating, and it’s also good for keeping sticky plaque at bay.
If you just can’t bring yourself to cut out these beverages entirely, at least be sure your child thoroughly rinses their mouth with water right after consuming the drink. Rinsing removes extra sugars and helps maintain a normal pH balance, too.
One more tip: Remember to bring your child in twice a year for checkups. Our team can look for early signs of decay that may be treated without the need for drilling, plus we can use protective sealants and fluoride treatments to give your child’s teeth the extra help they need to stay healthy and strong.
Give your child a lifetime of healthy smiles
With locations in Brea, Corona, Covina, Riverside, Ontario, and Perris, California, Dental Kidz Club makes it simple and convenient to help you help your child, with state-of-the-art dental care tailored to the unique needs of kids and teens.
To learn more about what you can do to keep your child’s teeth healthy or to schedule an exam, call the office or book an appointment online today.