Children don’t always do what’s best for them. This is universally understood. They don’t snack on broccoli and sweet potato or bring their own sunscreen to the beach. For a lot of us even getting them to drink enough water can be a challenge. Nothing trumps water, but when you need them to get their fluids up many of us opt for juice. I totally understand the logic. Fruits are good for you! Juicing them should guarantee us all their goodness in liquid form! I’ve seen it in pictures as part of a healthy and balanced breakfast! Those advertising images never lie! They have doctors!
The truth is that although authentic and natural fruit juices in the right quantities has wonderful health benefits, drinking juice the way most of us do can have a serious impact on oral health. In fact, it is a leading contributor to one of the most common health ailments for young people aged 5-18; tooth erosion. Tooth erosion is the loss of tooth structure, mainly the outer layer of enamel caused by acid that is not bacterial in nature. For our kids, the most common means of acidic exposure to teeth is via naturally and artificially sweetened fruit juices such as orange and apple as well as carbonated beverages.
What Does Tooth Erosion Mean for my Loved Ones?
Over time, tooth erosion softens and weakens the tooth’s outer layer leading to negative consequences such as increased sensitivity to hot, cold and sweet foods and beverages. It also leads to discolouration in teeth, transparent and yellow as well as increased spaces between teeth and gums. The latter is not only cosmetically unpleasant, but also creates more nooks and crannies for cavity causing bacteria to wreak havoc. All of this can contribute to a mouth that is far more likely to have cavities and other oral health issues that can make life tough for the child and their family.
Should I Stop My Family From Drinking Juice?
By no means are we suggesting that your child be denied the pleasing taste and undeniable health benefits that certain juices do provide. There are definitely some things to be mindful of. Opting for 100% natural and organic juices will help ensure that the only sugars in said beverages are natural. Beyond juicing at home, shopping for the right products will ensure your family is making the best possible juice choices. Many of our most well-known brands have shocking production processes that make you question how natural the juice really is. Companies like Kiju and others are dedicated to providing much healthier alternatives. They have great organic juices and are available at most of our large grocery chains. Always read the label on the back of any juice you pick up and avoid anything that has added sugars. Citrus fruit juices should be minimized in order to avoid unnecessary acidity.
The other thing to consider is how much fruit juice we are consuming. We tend to drink juice in large amounts because let’s face it, a lot of people make that stuff taste delicious. It is important that people be aware and keep it in moderation. Children should not be exposed to any fruit juice before 6 months of age. After that, the daily recommended intake for children ages 1 to 6 is 4 to 6 ounces – the equivalent of 120 to 175 mL. Children ages 7 to 18 should avoid consuming more than 8 to 12 ounces (up to 350 mL). It is important that parents never treat juices or fruit beverages as water substitutes or equivalents for their children It is an easy way to get them to drink fluids but doing so consistently can wreak havoc on a child’s mouth and teeth. Many brands also utilize artificial flavours and add sugar to create a better tasting product. Over-consumption of sugar even in children has devastating effects on overall health.
The good people at the Solo Cup Company have provided the following guide for our visual learners. Not only does it debunk a common held belief about Solo Cups (left), but it also provided the perfect amount of juice for a child (right).
Tips to Minimize the Adverse Effects
Beyond staying within the prescribed daily amounts and opting for naturally derived juices, the following will aid in minimizing erosion and promoting better oral health for juice drinking children:
If your child is going to drink juice and similar beverages, it is best that they do so in one go rather than sipping throughout the day. This makes it easier to keep track of the amount being consumed.
Juice should be consumed along with food or a meal to neutralize and minimize its acidity
Ideally, juice should be sipped through a straw or a ‘sippy cup’ rather than directly from a glass as this significantly reduced exposure to teeth while drinking
Children should avoid brushing their teeth for at least half an hour after consuming juices or like beverages as their teeth are softer and more prone to damage from brushing during this time. All toothbrushes should be soft bristled and brushing should be done gently and slowly
Milk and dairy products should be consumed as part of a child’s regular diet so as to offset the adverse effects of erosion
If your child is currently consuming more juice than they should, attempt watering it down progressively until they are in line with the aforementioned recommended amounts. Start slowly and make the changes subtle. The likelihood of long term change increases greatly.
Remember that children ages 1 to 6 should not consume more than 4 to 6 ounces (120 to 175 mL). Those ages 7 to 18 should keep it between 8 to 12 ounces (350 mL). An 18 year old can vote as an adult. They can even buy liquor and gamble in Quebec. Their juice limit is as high as any older adult should go as well.