Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood. Finding ways to prevent tooth decay is important.

A child’s diet can determine how likely they are to have cavities as well as impact their overall health. Consuming sugary drinks, such as soda, can lead to an increase in tooth decay, but what do we know about juice?

We know that children love juice. Unfortunately, it can result in an increase in tooth decay. Juice contains sugars that the bacteria in the mouth turn into acid. This process results in tooth decay.

It can be confusing for parents with so many different juice choices; 100-percent fruit juice is different than a fruit drink, beverage, or cocktail.

Juices that contain added ingredients, such as sweeteners and flavors, cannot be labeled as 100-percent fruit juice. Drinks containing 100-percent juice can still cause tooth decay.

The alternatives? Fresh fruit is great, especially those that contain fiber.

As for other beverages, milk is considered a good alternative because it contains essential nutrients for growing children and has a much lesser impact on tooth decay. Water is also a good alternative, especially for hydration during our Arizona summers.

How often juice is consumed throughout the day can lead to more tooth decay. Juices should be consumed during meal or snack times only. As is true for any drink containing sugar, a child should not be put to bed with a bottle of juice.

Teaching healthy eating habits is one of the best ways to prevent such problems as tooth decay.  Monitoring juice or other sweetened beverages children are drinking goes a long way toward keeping their mouths healthy and decay-free.

If you have concerns about your child’s overall diet, pediatricians are a great source of information. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting consumption to 4-6 ounces per day for children 1 to 6 years old, and 8-12 ounces per day for children 7 to 18 years old, and only consuming pasteurized juice.

The husband and wife team of pediatric dentists Norman J. Bunch, DDS, MS, and Jennifer J. Marshall, DDS, MSD, operate Northwest Children’s Dentistry, serving all of Northwest Tucson. For more information about this article or for questions about pediatric dentistry, call 544-8522 or visit www.nwkidsdds.com.

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