Researchers Examine the Impact of Soda on Children’s Dental Health

Just days after the US government released its new dietary guidelines advising Americans to reduce their sugar intake, new research from The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) shows that sugary drinks are associated with erosive tooth wear among teenagers in Mexico, where sugary beverages are a dietary staple.

“The oral health of children is always top of mind, and we’ve seen recently that sugar is a leading problem when it comes to their overall health and dental health,” said JADA editor Michael Glick, DMD. “This study shows an association between high intake of sweet drinks and poor oral health. This issue needs to be taken seriously.”

The study authors issued a food questionnaire to teens between ages 14 and 19 living in Mexico regarding the intake of fruit juice, sports drinks and sweet carbonated drinks, among other food items. The teenagers were then examined for erosive tooth wear. Results of the study showed that the overall prevalence of erosive tooth wear was 31.7 per cent, with sweet carbonated drinks (soda) causing the most erosion.

“While this is an ex-US study, the findings are meaningful to everyone who cares about the health and wellness of children,” said Yasmi O. Crystal, DMD, FAAPD, professor of paediatric dentistry at New York University College of Dentistry. “These findings support calls from the World Health Organisation, Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture to reduce the intake of added sugars. Limiting the intake of sweetened carbonated beverages can help patients and our health care system as a whole.”

Mexico recently implemented a tax on sugary drinks to limit intake, which resulted in sales of sugary beverages falling as much as 12 per cent. The “soda tax” concept has been suggested by political officials in some areas of the US and other parts of the world.

Too much sugar intake and other poor dietary habits can result in not only poor oral health but also, according to leading medical organisations, poor overall health, including obesity. Another article in the February issue of JADA suggests the dental office may be the right place for weight screening, in an effort to promote healthy behaviours and improve weight and oral health status.