Juice is refreshing and can be very delicious. Sadly, juice is not necessary for a balanced diet due to its very high sugar content and acidity. When consumed frequently, juice can become a contributor to one of the leading causes of tooth decay in children.
High levels of sugar content found in juice can be dangerous for the teeth. Once the child finishes their cup of juice, leftover sugar likes to hide on the teeth until washed away. The saliva then becomes more acidic from the leftover sugars left in the mouth. This toxic combination puts the child at higher risk for enamel break down and development of cavities.
Since baby teeth are so much smaller than permanent teeth, it is easier for sugar to cause rampant cavities. Children need their teeth for not only a beautiful smile, but to learn how to eat and speak correctly!
So, how can we enjoy juice and stay healthy?
- Offer juice when enjoying a meal. The foods and saliva production will help wash away the leftover sugars.
- Avoid juice before going to sleep or late at night.
- Only allow water to go into sippy cups. Children are more likely to be mobile with sippy cups which means they have frequent opportunities to expose their teeth to juice.
- Provide fruits instead of juices. Small serving sizes of fruit have smaller sugar content and less artificial ingredients. After snacking, we recommended to rinse and floss teeth to remove any fruit that may be in between the teeth.
These are some suggestions for juice consumption according to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Children younger than 12 months. Do not routinely give fruit juice to infants younger than 12 months since it offers no nutrition benefits at this age.
Children 1–3 years. Limit fruit juice to a maximum of 4 ounces per day.
Children 4-6 years. Limit juice to a maximum of 4-6 ounces per day.
Children 7-8 years. Limit juice to 8 ounces per day.
Alternatively, transitioning from juice to only water is a great step towards a healthy smile and body. It may take time but is possible! Encourage children to drink water, but most importantly to enjoy it. If you are able to limit sweet drinks and increase water intake, you become an excellent role model for your kiddos.
Remember that the later you wait to introduce juice to your little ones, the longer they don’t know to ask for juice! If you suspect that your child may be at risk for poor oral health due to the effects of juice or sugar, be sure to reach out to your Pediatric Dentist as soon as possible.
Author: Dr. Rishita Jaju is a pediatric dentist at Smile Wonders in Reston, VA. She is an advanced board-certified dentist with proficiency in laser dentistry.