From the day the first tooth came in, you’ve been diligent about your child’s dental care. Regular visits to your family dentist for check-ups, daily brushing and flossing, and a healthy diet are all part of your routine. Why, you’ve even cut down on sugary soft drinks and replaced them with healthy fruit juices … oh, wait!
While it’s great that you’re paying attention to the nutritional value of the foods you give to your child, it’s also good to keep in mind that every rose has a thorn. There are trade-offs to be made when considering food and drink for optimal health, which includes the condition of your child’s teeth. Not well-known among parents is the fact that fruit juices contain acids—the same culprits found in soft drinks—that can contribute to a special form of tooth decay known as dental erosion.
Dental erosion is the direct wearing-away or dissolving of tooth enamel that results from being exposed to acid-containing beverages and other foods. In extreme cases of dental erosion, the teeth can be virtually worn down to stumps.
Health experts are increasingly concerned about the rise in dental erosion among children and teens. A recent study of Australian children found 80% have some form of erosion with some kids as young as four requiring their teeth capped because of this enamel loss.
The Worst Offenders
Adding insult to injury, the often-recommended practice of brushing teeth right after meals can make dental erosion worse. That’s because the acid in your drink goes to work immediately. Try sucking on a lemon or sipping a can of cola, then run your tongue over the inside of your teeth. See how ‘sludgy’ it feels? That’s the tooth enamel that’s been softened by the acid in your drink. Notice, too, how quickly it works. Because of this fast-acting nature of the food acids, dentists now recommend that you wait 30 minutes after consuming such foods before brushing your teeth. This gives your saliva a chance to neutralize the acid and reverse the softening.
You don’t have to toss that newly-purchased container of OJ, however, understand that it’s the frequency, not the amount, of juice that can make or break a pattern of dental erosion in your kids’ (and your) teeth. Try applying these common-sense guidelines: Serve fruit juice with meals, not in between. Serve fruit juice diluted with water to reduce the acid content. And don’t get into the habit of using fruit juice in a bottle for a baby or young child.
The Best Cure is Prevention
As we discussed above, simple changes in the way you serve fruit juices to your family can go a long way to reduced the risk for tooth erosion. Here are some other ways to add more protection through prevention:
Drink milk or plain water—nature’s natural substances that are good for your teeth! Milk and other high-calcium foods help strengthen your choppers by restoring the mineral content.
Brush gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Reducing the abrasive forces your teeth are subjected to goes a long way towards keeping them intact.
If you (or Junior) absolutely must have fruit juice, sport drinks, or sodas, try drinking these beverages through a straw. That directs the liquid away from the teeth and reduces your exposure. Also, try rinsing your mouth with plain water after drinking to reduce the acid content. Then wait 30 minutes before brushing.
By following the simple steps outlined here, and seeing your dentist for regular check-ups. you can help your family avoid making an unpleasant acquaintance with tooth erosion!