Most people know certain foods and drinks are bad for teeth. Sugary drinks, such as soda/pop and juice, are definitely on this list. Unfortunately, these are often the favorite drinks for kids. Many adults also tend to forget that their favorite flavored coffee drink or sweet tea has a lot of sugar too! Drinking too many sweetened beverages can lead to health concerns, including obesity and dental problems. When someone has a sugary drink, the sugar latches on the teeth. Bacteria in the mouth eat away at the sugar and then produce acid. Eventually, this acid begins to eat away and weaken the enamel on the teeth, which increases the chances of developing tooth decay.
So what can you do? The best way to reduce the risk of tooth decay caused by sugary drinks is to avoid them when possible. Drinking your calories just doesn’t make good sense, not to mention the damage these high calorie and high sugar beverages can do to your overall health. Make water the primary drink choice for you and your family, and make sugary drinks only a ‘sometimes’ drink, if at all. After drinking a sugary drink, make sure to rinse with a few drinks of water to flush the mouth and remove as much sugar from the teeth as possible. Using a toothpaste and mouthwash containing fluoride can also help to reduce cavities and strengthen tooth enamel. Seeing a dentist regularly is very important, as well.
Here are some tips to get your kids (and you!) to drink more water, instead of sugar-sweetened drinks:
-Pack a cold of frozen water bottle whenever you go out- water is the best way to quench your thirst, especially when it’s hot outside!
-Serve the water in a fun-looking cup or reusable bottle! You can even add slices of fruit for extra flavor. Try freezing pieces of fruit inside the ice cubes.
-Don’t overstock on sweetened drinks at home- make cold water available instead.
-When playing sports, encourage kids to drink water instead of sweetened sports drinks.
-Water down sweetened drinks for a short time and then start to replace them with plain water.
-Serve sweetened drinks in smaller cups and only have them occasionally (not all day/everyday).
Remember to put some thought into your drink choices and take the time to care for your (and your family’s) health.
Juli Simpson, RN, BSN, LSN, is the Maternal & Child Health, Program Director at the Meigs County Health Department.