While many parents these days are limiting the amount of sugary drinks their children are consuming, new research shows even giving your child a single sip can cause irreversible damage to young teeth.
Researchers at the University of Adelaide have, for the first-time, been able to show that permanent damage to tooth enamel happens within the first 30 seconds of high acidity contacting the teeth.
Dr Sarbin Ranjitkar, a member of the university’s Craniofacial Biology Research Group, says the findings highlight why highly acidic drinks, such as soft drinks, fruit juices and sports drinks, should be avoided.
“If high acidity drinks are consumed, it is not simply a matter of having a child clean their teeth an hour or 30 minutes later and hoping they’ll be okay – the damage is already done,” he says.
While the level of consumption is slowly decreasing, Australia is still in the top 10 countries for the per capita consumption of soft drink. A fact which is of particular concern to the Australian Dental Association.
The ADA says: “Studies show that the consumption of soft drinks increases the risk of developing dental decay, especially in children. All soft drinks are acidic, and this can dissolve the tooth in a process called dental erosion.”
“The sugar in soft drink is converted into acid by the bacteria in plaque. This acid can lead to tooth decay. Also, acid from the soft drink itself can damage tooth structure irreversibly due to dental erosion.”
Dr Ranjitkar says while fresh fruit is naturally acidic it is a much healthier option than fruit juice.
“The important thing to appreciate is that there is a balance between acids and host protection in a healthy mouth,” he says.
“Once that balance is shifted in favour of the acids, regardless of the type of acid, teeth become damaged.”
While completely eliminating soft drink from your child’s diet is ideal, if you’re weaning them off the sweet stuff try these tips to help minimise the damage:
- Keep the soft drink cold
- Use a straw where possible
- Do not brush teeth straight away
- Do not swish the soft drink around the mouth
- Finish meals with something to neutralise acids, eg. milk, cheese or chew sugar-free gum.