Teeth: it’s pretty hard to live without them. Sadly, our modern diet is starchy, chewy, sticky, sweet, and less than ideal for perfect dental health. Juice presents a special dilemma: it’s more natural than soda or artificially sweetened drinks and it does pack some of the same nutritional benefits as plain old fruit, but it’s a dentist’s bane. Many fruit juices are as high or higher in sugar as a similar soda drink, and they can also contain enough acid to eventually erode enamel. An article published by CNN in 2009 (link here) states that researchers and professors from both Temple University and University of Iowa’s College of Dentistry discovered significant links between frequent juice-sipping and tooth erosion.
My youngest daughter had two cavities filled this Tuesday, and her dentist had little to suggest that we hadn’t already tried. We don’t drink a lot of soft drinks, and candy is a once-in-a-while treat. Still, brushing and flossing have not been enough. The dentist’s advice? “Give her less juice.”
My daughter, who loves juice as much as almost any other cool treat, was not at all happy with this decree. She worried that juice would be banned forever and that she’d be on a water-only diet for the rest of her childhood. Not at all! We’re just changing the way juice is served.
Researchers in the studies mentioned above came up with these conclusions about juice and other sweet drinks, and my dentist agrees:
Sweet drinks should be enjoyed all at once, with meals, rather than sipped throughout the day. This reduces the duration of acid and sugar exposure to the teeth. Brushing after meals is always a good idea.
Sweet drinks should be followed by a swish of water to rinse the teeth. (Some dentists worry that brushing immediately after drinking an acidic drink can scrub away the enamel, so swish THEN brush.)
Drink water when you’re thirsty and save juice for a once-in-a-while treat every few days.
Don’t substitute soda, energy drinks, or sports drinks for juice! They’re no better, and contain similar levels of sugar and acid as well as artificial ingredients.
DO stay hydrated: water is an absolutely essential part of a healthy diet for every man, woman, and child.