Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Soft Drinks Are Hard on Your Child’s Teeth

Dr. Benjamin Coon, D.D.S.
With the increasing popularity of “extreme sports” among today’s youth, many soft drink advertisers have begun to target children, sending misleading messages to the young, na├»ve consumer. Soft drink and energy drink companies have sought out the world’s top athletes in events like snowboarding, skateboarding, BMX, and motocross to endorse their products. Adolescents everywhere have fallen prey to this persuasive and compelling influence, passing up healthier calcium-rich milk and water in hopes of enhancing energy and improving performance by consuming beverages saturated with sugar. In the past 10 years, soft drink consumption among children has almost doubled in the United States. Today’s average teenage boy consumes three or more cans of soda per day, and 10 percent drink seven or more cans a day. The average for teenage girl drinks more than two cans a day, and 10 percent drink more than five cans a day. What our youngsters may not understand is how these poor nutritional choices are affecting their health, in particular their dentition. As a result, soft drinks have become a major concern among dentists everywhere.

The increased consumption of soda starting at a very young age is causing a profound increase in tooth decay nationwide. Tooth decay, or technically "dental caries", is a demineralization of dental hard tissues caused by the acid byproduct of the bacterial fermentation of dietary sugars. While it may be common knowledge among Americans that the consumption of sugar leads to tooth decay, many people, especially kids and teens, do not know that the demineralization to dental structures may occur in the absence of sugar.  Dental erosion is the loss of tooth structure resulting from continuous exposure to acid. Simple pH monitors have shown that all soft drinks, especially colas and one highly caffeinated yellow carbonated soda (which I won't mention here by name but it rhymes with Fountain Clue) are extremely acidic.  The severe acidity of these beverages, even diet sodas and sport drinks, can be extremely detrimental to one’s oral health, often causing irreversible damage to the young, immature enamel of childrens' teeth.

Children ages eight to 17 are at increased risk to dental caries from the consumption of acidic and sugar rich soft drinks.  The enamel of newly erupted teeth in teenagers is immature, and the crystalline structure is porous, chalky and is easily penetrated and dissolved by acids.  Over time, the continuous exposure of the dental structures to the acid causes decay.  If left untreated, tooth decay may result in the unfortunate premature removal of teeth.

Our message is simple: Encourage your kids to cut soft drinks out of their diet.  If they must drink soda, have them use a straw to keep sugars and acid away from the teeth.   Tell them to drink the soda quickly and avoid prolonged sipping.  Promote rinsing with water or brushing after soft drink consumption.  Also, support the use of fluoridated toothpaste and drinking of fluoridated water.  Most importantly, remember to schedule regular dental visits for cleanings and exams.  With these simple precautions, you can greatly improve the overall oral health of your child.
Dr. Benjamin Coon, D.D.S.
Glenwood Meadows Dental
40 Market Street, Suite A
Glenwood Springs, CO  81601