I can’t tell you when it happened, but at some point in the last year my baby morphed into a walking, talking toddler. Shortly after we celebrated my son’s first birthday, his daycare informed me that he’d be graduating to the toddler class, where they had juice with their snacks. Worried about his sugar intake, I politely asked his teachers to only give him milk or water—no juice.
Did I needlessly restrict his drink selection or did I save his budding teeth from future decay? The answer depends on what type of juice the daycare is serving.
A new study from the American Dental Association (ADA) looked at preschoolers’ consumption of 100% juice and whether or not it caused tooth decay. Surprisingly, there were no significant findings between 100% fruit juice consumption and decay.
If you’d like to make juice a part of your child’s diet, consider these tips:
- Choose only 100% fruit juices. While it’s true that 100% fruit juices contain the sweet stuff, their taste is due to natural sugars. 100% juices are always a better choice than fruit-flavored juices containing artificial, added sugar. Remember that because of labeling laws, “made with 100% real juice” does not necessarily mean that the drink contains only natural juice. Read the label carefully to see if sugar, artificial flavors, or other substances were added.
- Avoid all-day sipping. Juice can be healthy in moderation, but it often has as much sugar as soda. This sugar — found even in 100% fruit juice — fuels cavity-causing bacteria in kids’ mouths. This is especially true when children sip on juice throughout the day. This is a big problem in young children because the hard surface of baby teeth — enamel — is thin, making their teeth vulnerable to sugar’s harmful effects.
- Enjoy juice at mealtimes only. Limit juice and other sugary drinks to mealtimes only—breakfast, lunch or dinner. This minimizes the time a child’s teeth are exposed to sugar and allows the mouth to naturally clean itself of the “bad” bacteria. Then, between meals and especially at bedtime, a child should have only water.
- Brush and floss regularly. A regular dental routine will keep your child’s mouth clean and keep those cavity-causing bacteria at bay.
The health of baby teeth – good or bad – carries over to adult teeth. Serve 100% juice in moderation to keep little smiles healthy and bright!