Virtually all parents know that it is important to drink water throughout the day. That said, there are powerful marketing forces aimed at convincing us that other beverage options are more appealing, convenient and even healthful. In reality, plain water is the healthiest possible drink choice, both for parents and children alike. By better understanding the risks of consuming sugary drinks, parents are often motivated to make changes to the beverages they make available to their kids. At Wright Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, we would also like to highlight the benefits that increasing water consumption can have on dental health.
The Risks of Sugary Drinks
When it comes to artificially flavored sports drinks and sodas, the sugar content can be astounding. Some of these options reach as high as 30+ grams of sugar per serving! Aside from the obvious risks of excessive weight gain and diabetes, those sugars can adhere to the surface of teeth, providing fuel to bacteria within the mouth. Even diet sodas can be harmful, in part due to high acidity that can negatively impact tooth enamel.
Juice is Not a Better Option
Some parents believe that because fruit juice originates from a natural product, that it is a better beverage option for their kids. In reality, fruit juice is highly concentrated and delivers a sugar punch that far exceeds what a child would get from consuming the same fruit in its whole version. Also, drinking fruit juice eliminates the many benefits of the natural fiber found in whole fruit. Lastly, it is far easier to over-consume when drinking juice. A kid can drink a glass of orange juice in mere seconds, but he or she would be highly unlikely to consume the number of whole oranges it takes to produce the same volume of juice.
Why Water is the Ideal Beverage
Drinking plain water offers several advantages over other beverage options. To begin, water contains no sugar, and therefore leaves no dangerous residue on the surface of the teeth. Even better, drinking water provides a natural "rinsing" action within the mouth, helping to clear out residual food particles and bacteria. Water also helps to increase the volume of saliva within the mouth, which is the body's natural defense against tooth decay. Saliva is 99% water, but also contains essential minerals and proteins that protect teeth.
Tips for Decreasing Sugary Drinks and Boosting Water Consumption
The team at Wright Smiles Pediatric Dentistry understands that making significant dietary changes can be a challenge. We suggest beginning with small changes, such as progressively watering down fruit juice over a period of a few weeks, while slowly increasing the volume of water that is served. Children may also respond well to having a role in creating delicious, infused water, which is simple and easy. But perhaps the most important thing that parents can do to lower their kids' consumption of unhealthy beverages is to avoid purchasing those products, leaving nothing but healthy options available at home.