Are Juice Boxes Bad for Children’s Teeth?
Many of us grew up drinking juice as a healthy way to get some of our daily fruit. However, pediatricians and dentists now discourage giving juice to kids on a regular basis. So, are juice boxes bad for children’s teeth and bodies?
Why Do Dentists Caution Against Drinking Juice Regularly?
Juice is delicious and refreshing, and because it comes directly from fresh fruit, it’s easy to think of it as a fresh fruit substitute. It contains many of the vitamins and minerals found in the fruit itself, so it should be good for you, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Because fruit juice eliminates the fiber, you don’t get benefits of that fiber, including better digestion and reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease. Moreover, juice isn’t as filling as a piece of fresh fruit, so you’re likely to consume more of it. But is that a problem?
Even 100% fruit juice is full of sugar, and without the fiber from the fruit, your body absorbs more of that sugar and absorbs it faster. Since your body doesn’t have to work hard to process juice, your caloric intake goes up as well. Combined, this translates to a poor return on your consumption. You might get some vitamins and minerals (not all when you remove the fiber!), but you’ll also get significantly more sugar and calories.
This is even more of an issue if your juice isn’t 100% juice. It’s common for brands to add additional sugar, flavoring, food coloring, or other additives, none of which make it any healthier. To add to the problem, fruit juice is also frequently high in acid. Combine that acid with all the sugar, and that glass of juice just became even more damaging to your teeth.
How Are Juice Boxes Bad for Teeth?
You might be thinking, “Juice might not be as healthy as I thought, but are juice boxes bad for teeth just once per day?” You might be surprised to learn just how much a daily juice box could impact your child’s teeth. Let’s take a look at the two main problems with juice: the sugar and the acid.
High sugar content
Sugar is the enemy of healthy teeth, which is why we’re typically careful about consuming too many sweets or sugary drinks like soda. Yet, few people think of fruit juice as a sugary drink. When you put a juice box in your kid’s lunch, you probably think it’s an opportunity for your child to get a little extra nutrition during the day. But those juice boxes are likely doing more harm than good. As it turns out, one small box of fruit juice frequently contains about the same amount of sugar as the same volume of soda!
High acid content
That amount of sugar can cause tooth decay all on its own, but when combined with the acid in many types of juice, it becomes especially problematic. Acidic drinks not only make it easier for harmful bacteria to flourish in your mouth, but the acids in some juices make teeth particularly prone to erosion. Since the acid in the juice dissolves any exposed parts of your teeth, your teeth can become even more vulnerable to problems like decay and sensitivity.
In fact, as surprising as it may be, highly acidic juices like citrus can do more harm to your teeth than soda! The citric acid in the juice not only softens your enamel, but it can also soften your dentin (the layer of your teeth below your enamel). It also reduces the calcium ions in your saliva, stopping your saliva from being able to repair any mineral damage caused by the citric acid.
Can Your Child Ever Have Juice?
So, are juice boxes bad for children’s teeth? Unfortunately, they are, and some types of juice can be especially damaging. The higher the acidity and sugar content in each type of juice, the more harm the juice box will do. A daily juice box could cause serious problems for your child’s oral health, including increased plaque, tooth sensitivity, and cavities. However, that doesn’t mean that juice is off-limits forever. Now that you can answer, “How are juice boxes bad for teeth,” there are a few tips you can use to help ensure that occasional juice won’t be a problem for your kid.
- Let juice be a treat. Just like any other high-sugar food or drink, save juice for special occasions.
- Serve juice with a straw. Kids love straws, but using straws also minimizes the amount of contact the juice makes with their teeth.
- Drink juice in one sitting. This minimizes the amount of time juice sits on teeth. If your child slowly sips juice over an hour or two, that’s more time that the teeth are in contact with the sugar and acid.
How to Protect Your Child’s Teeth
The best way to protect your child’s teeth is with excellent oral hygiene and a super healthy diet. But let’s be honest—no one is perfect. Are juice boxes bad for children’s teeth? Yes, but a little juice from time to time should be fine. Still, there’s more you can do to keep your kid’s teeth healthy even when habits aren’t 100% perfect every second of every day.
Clearly the healthiest drink for your kids and their teeth is water. Water keeps you hydrated and helps support your saliva so it can do its job protecting your teeth. Water can also be used to help rinse foods and beverages away before they can sit on teeth and do further damage. If your child has a glass of juice, follow up with some water to rinse away that sugar and acid.
Don’t brush right away
This probably seems counterintuitive, but your kids shouldn’t brush their teeth immediately after acidic foods and drinks. The acid softens the enamel of their teeth, leaving it vulnerable to further damage. If your child brushes their teeth immediately after an acidic beverage, they could inadvertently do even more damage to their teeth. Instead, encourage your child to rinse their mouth with tap water after drinking juice and wait at least half an hour before brushing teeth.
Maintain consistent dental hygiene
Make sure your kids brush their teeth twice per day, every day, for two minutes each time. They should also floss daily, being careful to scrape down the surfaces of their teeth with the floss. Take your child to see their dentist every six months for checkups and cleanings.
Learn more about how to keep your child’s mouth and body healthy by ordering your copy of If Your Mouth Could Talk today.
Hoss, Dr. Kami. If Your Mouth Could Talk. https://drkamihoss.com/book/