You probably already know you should limit your child’s intake of the usual sweet suspects: sodas, candies, and other sugar-laden foods. But you should also moderate something most people consider wholesome and nutritious: fruit juice.
Wait—juice is made from fruit, so it must be good for you, right?
Fruit juice, even if it’s all natural, contains a lot of sugar. What’s worse is that many fruit juices (especially those marketed for children) have added sugar in them. While there are nutritional benefits to fruit juice, it can also be really hard on teeth.
When we see very young children at our practice with multiple cavities, sugary drinks—including juice—are nearly always the cause.
The amount of sugar your child consumes has a huge bearing on their risk of tooth decay: the more they take in, the more likely they are to develop cavities.
Fueling Cavity-Causing Bacteria
Sugar in any form is a prime food source for decay-causing bacteria. As bacteria consume leftover sugar in the mouth, they produce acid. With an ample source of sugar, they also multiply—and this in turn increases their total acid production. Acid at these high levels can soften and erode tooth enamel, which leads to tooth decay and cavities.
Limiting sugary foods can minimize your children’s risk for tooth decay. For designated snack times, choose items like carrot sticks or even popcorn with a dash of spice rather than sweet snacks and candies. As a bonus incentive, a wide variety of healthy foods will broaden your child’s palate at an early age.
Recommended Intake of Juice for Children
Just as you manage other sugary foods your children eat or drink, the American Academy of Pediatrics also advises that you moderate their consumption of fruit juices, including all-natural brands with no added sugar. Their recommended limits on daily juice depend on a child’s age and overall health:
- infants (less than one year) or any children with abnormal weight gain: no juice at all;
- toddlers (ages 1–3): 4 ounces or less per day;
- younger children (4–6): 6 ounces or less per day;
- and older children (7–18): 8 ounces (1 cup) or less per day.
As for the rest of your children’s hydration needs, the most dental-friendly liquid for any of us is plain water. For older children, low- or nonfat milk is also a sound choice.
Preventing tooth decay in your children is a continuous task that requires all of us, parents and dental providers, to do our part. Besides daily hygiene (brushing and flossing) and regular dental visits, keeping sugar to a minimum is an important part of that effort.
If you would like more information on best dental health practices for children, please contact us so we can help you evaluate your family’s needs.
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