Each February, the American Dental Association sponsors National Children’s Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of oral health. Here are some tips for use year-round.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children, even more common than asthma, hay fever, and childhood obesity. The good news is that there are several ways to help prevent tooth decay in children, including brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, drinking fluoridated water, having regular dental visits, and avoiding foods or beverages that are high in sugar.
Often, parents are not aware that many drinks contain a large amount of natural or added sugar. That’s why it’s important to read the nutrition facts label to see how much sugar is in a drink. The first few ingredients listed on the label are the ones that appear in the largest amounts. If sugar is listed as one of the first three ingredients, the drink sugar-heavy.
Some drinks that have added sugar as one of the first three ingredients:
- Flavored milk, including chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla milk
- Non-diet pop or soda
- Fruit drinks, such as fruit punch and juice cocktails
- Energy and sports drinks
Here are some tips to keep in mind when selecting and serving drinks to children that will help promote good oral health.
- Give children plain, fluoridated water throughout the day.
- Give children milk during meal and snack times.
- If children drink from a sippy cup during the day, it should contain only water or milk, nothing else. By age 12 to 14 months, most children can drink from a cup.
- Hold off on serving juice until a child is 12 months old. Serve children ages one to three no more than four ounces of juice each day, and make sure it’s 100 percent fruit juice. Children ages four to six can have between four and six ounces per day.
- Try not to put children to bed with a bottle or sippy cup. If you do, the bottle or sippy cup should contain only water.
For additional information for families on how to keep children’s mouths healthy, share the Healthy Habits for Happy Smiles handouts. The handouts are available here.