As a family dentist in Coos Bay, Dr. Lori Lemire strives to protect the oral health of patients of all ages. For younger patients whose oral health is still in development, diet can play an enormous role in determining the long-term health of their teeth and gums.
Diet extends to more than just whether children refuse to eat their vegetables or how often they may snack. Diet also includes the beverages kids drink, especially those loaded with hidden sugars.
New research now reveals that one in seven adolescents consume more than two cups of artificially sweetened beverages a day. Those same children are two to three time more likely to develop oral health problems when compared to kids who don’t brink these types of beverages.
With the amount of sports drink and soda consumption on the rise in kids, the results of this recent study suggest that the oral health of future generations could be in serious jeopardy.
The results of the study were recently published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
Sweetened Beverage Consumption a Concern
Conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney, the study examined the daily consumption of artificially sweetened beverages by over 3,600 kids in grades 6, 8, and 10.
The study found that among these age groups, energy drinks ranked as the most popular sweetened beverage, with 20 percent of the study participants drinking at least one cup a day.
Like most places in the U.S., Australia has yet to implement a sugar tax despite calls from many leading health experts. Debate is currently raging in the country about whether such a tax would have any impact on decreasing the consumption of these types of beverage and “junk food” among Australians. Proponents of the tax have pointed to the results of this study as proof of the often overlooked impact artificially sweetened beverages have on oral health.
Drinking two cups of these types of beverages a day is roughly equal to 11 teaspoons of sugar which is well over the guidelines for daily sugar intake set by the World Health Organization.
“We need strategies to reduce adolescent’s consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, not only due to weight implications, but also because of oral health,” writes Dr. Louise Hardy, the study’s lead researcher.
“Bad teeth can have significant and lasting social and health impacts. It can cause considerable pain and suffering, and by changing what people eat, altering their speech, and their quality of life,” wrote Dr. Hardy.
The findings of the study were based on data collected from the NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition survey, a cross sectional representative survey of primary and high school kids in Australia.
The study found associations between different types of artificially sweetened beverages and oral health, showing that all beverages, with the exception of fruit juice, were associated with frequent toothaches and food avoidance.
Unexpectedly, the risk of developing oral health problems were actually the highest among adolescents who consumed diet soft drinks. However, the study authors cited the need for more research before any conclusions could be drawn about this correlation.
Diet the Key to Better Oral Health
One of the easiest ways to help protect the long-term oral health of your kids – in addition to ensuring they brush and floss regularly – is to improve their diets by reducing the amount of sugar they consume on a daily basis. While sports drinks, artificially sweetened fruit juice and sodas may seem innocent enough, each of these products contain large numbers of hidden calories and sugars that can inadvertently harm your child’s oral health and weight.
If you have any questions about the best practices for protect the oral health of your kids, be sure to ask your family dentist in Coos Bay, Dr. Lori Lemire, during your next appointment.