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Too Much Soda Taking Its Toll on Kids' Teeth

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WebMD Health News

July 12, 2001 -- Sodas are a thirst-quencher and a caffeine kick. But they're also ruining kids' teeth, say many experts. Kids are drinking the stuff from morning to night -- all through the school day. The result is a prevalence of cavities that dentists have not seen since pre-fluoride days.

"Not only are all these sodas causing tooth decay, but they are also putting kids at risk for obesity, diabetes, hyperactivity," says William Chase, DDS, a dentist for the past 30 years in Adrian, Mich., and spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

"A lot of parents don't realize how much [soda] their children are consuming during the day, or the long-term effects on their health," Chase tells WebMD.

A few statistics: Soda consumption has more than doubled from 22 gallons of cola per person a year in 1970 to 56 gallons per person a year in 1999. In 1977, 12- to 19-year-olds drank 16 ounces of soda a day. In 1996, the same age group consumed an average of 28 ounces a day.

A big part of the problem, says Chase: soda machines in schools. Schools get significant funding from soda companies in exchange for selling one brand exclusively in schools. "We can't get the bottlers or soda pop companies to null and void their contracts with schools, because they all benefit," he tells WebMD. Schools use the monies to fund stadiums and billboards, he says.

So kids are getting sodas before school, between classes, during lunchtime -- anytime.

"When it's just a couple of cans a day, that's no big problem," says Susan Sup-Barnes, DDS, a dentist in Wheaton, Ill., just outside of Chicago, and a trustee of the AGD. "When it's six or eight cans a day, that's when we see the difference -- the most cavities."

The 16-ounce bottles are the biggest problem, says Chase. "Kids can sip all day, so they're dousing their teeth with pop -- bathing their teeth with sugar -- all day long." Carbonation in soda also breaks down enamel, he adds.

To protect teeth, here are his tips:

  • Drink only small-size sodas, then head to the water fountain. "Whether you swallow the water or spit it out, it takes the sugar off the teeth," Chase says.
  • Don't brush your teeth after drinking pop. "The acid in the sugar weakens the enamel," says Chase. "When you subject the enamel to a nylon bristle brush with toothpaste, you're going to wear away the enamel even faster."
  • Drink sodas through a straw. "There's less direct contact with teeth," Chase tells WebMD.

Many other popular soda alternatives -- such as fruit drinks and juices -- can be just as bad for kids' dental and overall health, Chase says. "They don't have as much sugar, but some kids drink so much it has the same effect as soda pop.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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