America's love affair with sugary drinks is out of control. The county's seemingly unquenchable thirst for highly acidic, sugar-sweetened sodas, sports beverages and energy drinks is creating an epidemic of cavities in school-aged children. The problem is so significant that the U.S. Surgeon General ranks tooth decay as the nation's number one chronic childhood disease.
Unfortunately, this major health issue could get far worse. Research conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture, shows that per capita daily consumption of soft-drinks has grown almost 500 percent in the past 50 years, with children between the ages of 6 and 20 ranking among the biggest consumers. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are especially troubling. The CDC found that the average American teen now drinks twice as much soda as milk and the typical 14-year-old male consumes nearly 30 ounces of soft drinks every day. All those sugary drinks add up fast. It's really no wonder that by age 19 78 percent of all Americans will have developed cavities in permanent teeth.
Long seen as a leading cause of kids' cavities, cola drinks are far from the worse offenders. Research by the University of Maryland Dental School shows that many soft drinks -- including canned iced teas, bottle lemonades, non-cola sodas, sports beverages and energy drinks -- are up to 11 times more harmful to dental enamel than colas. The combination of sugars and acids in these beverages are the perfect formula for creating cavities in children.
Five Healthy Beverages Kids Love to Drink
Parents are perfectly positioned to protect their kids from cavity-causing soft drinks. Smart shopping and a little home ingenuity are all it takes. The key is to replace sugary drinks with healthy beverages that children and teens actually enjoy.
Following are five fun and affordable alternatives to sodas, sports beverages and energy drinks:
- Water - Economical and often fortified with cavity-fighting fluoride, calorie-free tap water is nature's number-one thirst quencher.
- Tea - Lightly sweetened with honey or stevia, chilled black, green and white teas are healthy alternatives to highly acidic canned iced teas. Sugar-free, fruit-flavored herbal teas are popular choices, too.
- Fruit Juice Fizzers - A splash of 100 percent fruit juice mixed with 12 ounces of seltzer or sparkling water is refreshing and virtually sugar-free. Fizzers are great way to make the transition from soda to healthy beverages.
- Sporty Half & Half's - A 50/50 mix of sport drink and water creates a tasty drink kids love. The best part? It dramatically cuts the enamel-destroying sugars and acids found in most sports drinks.
- Low-fat Milk - This old favorite is packed with bone-building, teeth-strengthening calcium. Most kids can't get enough of it.
Making the switch to healthier "kid-friendly" alternative beverages doesn't have to be a traumatic experience. Most parents find their children are perfectly happy drinking healthy beverages. The secret is to start them off on the right path while they're young. It's also important that parents be good role models who reinforce "oral healthy" lifestyle choices by avoiding sugary drinks whenever possible.
The ABCs of Good Oral Hygiene
Replacing sugary drinks with healthy beverages is a smart way to help your children avoid tooth decay. Just as important is teaching your kids about the basics of good oral hygiene. Brushing twice a day, flossing daily and regular dental exams and cleanings are essential to a lifetime of good oral health.
Your children deserve the very best in dental healthcare. Instead of waiting for a dental problem to arise, plan ahead.