Soda Rots Kids' Teeth

Researchers Offer Tips to Fight Kids' Cavities

From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 2, 2003 -- New evidence backs up what you already know: Soda pop rots kids' teeth.

The study is based on 640 Iowa kids followed since they were born (between 1992 to 1995). Their parents kept track of what they ate. From ages 4 to 7, they underwent dental exams.

As you might suspect, these kids sucked down a lot of soda pop, juice boxes, and 100% juice drinks. They also drank a lot less milk than kids of previous generations. In other words, they are like most kids.

The kids who drank the most soda, had the most cavities, reports Teresa A. Marshall, PhD, RD, and her University of Iowa colleagues.

Contrary to expectations, milk drinking didn't seem to decrease -- or increase -- kids' cavities.

"Beginning as early as 2 years of age, regular soda pop was associated with an increased presence of [cavities] at 4 to 7 years of age," Marshall and colleagues report in the September issue of Pediatrics.

Fruit Juice and Juice Drinks Not as Bad as Soda

Kids who drank less 100% fruit juice had fewer cavities than other kids. But overall, these beverages had a surprisingly benign effect on kids' teeth.

"Juice drinks were not associated with the presence or extent of [cavities]," Marshall and colleagues note. "Our results suggest that regular soda pop and regular beverages from powder are more strongly associated with [cavity] risk than 100% juice or juice drinks."

The reason may be that juices have a different kind of sugar than soda. Soda sweeteners -- but not those from juices -- may help germs in the mouth do their dirty work of making sticky, dental plaque.

Advice for Parents

Based on their findings, Marshall and colleagues offer this advice:

  • Make sure kids get two or more servings of dairy foods every day.
  • Limit kids' 100% fruit juice to 4 to 6 oz per day.
  • Limit kids' drinking of soda and other sweet drinks to "occasional use."