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Is Juice Bad for Your Kids’ Teeth?

The truth is that some juices are packed with sugar and empty calories

Juice is made from fruit, so it must be good for you, right? Often parents think they’re taking good care of their kids by giving them fruit juices, but these drinks can be loaded with sugar. What’s perceived as a good-for-you glass of apple juice can have the same amount of sugar as a glass of soda. So, it’s hard for parents to know which juices are healthy or not for their children. Looking for the main ingredients in juices is important to making healthier choices.

Not all juice is pure juice. Watch out for these fruit drinks:

  • Mixed juice blends – only contain small amounts of different fruit juices, like pear or grape, and tend to have lots of added sugars.
  • Juice cocktails or juice drinks – typically are not 100% juice. Main ingredients are usually water, small amounts of juice, and sweetener, like sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
  • Fruit punch – sometimes masked as fruit “juice”; these beverages have little nutritional value.

100% fruit juices can also be unhealthy

  • A glass of apple, grape or cranberry juice has as much sugar as a glass of soda
  • Orange, grapefruit and vegetable juices are somewhat lower in sugar
  • Actual fruit is much better for children than fruit juice due to added fiber and nutrients
  • Young children should have no more than 4-6 ounces of fruit juice per day

The Dental Consequences of Excess Juice Consumption

When we see very young children at our practices with tooth decay and cavities, juice and other sugary drinks are nearly always the cause. Tooth decay starts with two main culprits: sugar and acid. Sugar fuels the bacteria already in our mouths to create acid. The acid then eats away at the protective layer of the teeth, or tooth enamel. This is what leads to tooth decay and cavities forming over time.

And, the way juice is served to kids also contributes to the problem. Sippy cups and bottles release liquid slowly. This process allows the sugary juice to pool in the mouth giving bacteria all the time it needs to trigger tooth decay and damage to kids’ teeth. This is especially true at night. Parents should never put babies to bed with milk or juice bottles.

Healthier Drink Alternatives

Less sugar, more nutrition

Eliminating sugary beverages as much as possible from your children’s diet is best for good oral health. Choose juice products that are 100% juice with no added sugar or other ingredients. Juices that are rich in vitamins are tomato, vegetable, grape, berry, and orange. Serve no more than 4 to 6 ounces a day and try diluting the juice with water. 

Other kid-friendly choices

Other good options are whole milk (almond, soy, or rice if your child’s allergic) and plain sparkling water. For fun, create a wholesome fruit smoothie by blending strawberries with a squeeze of lemon, a little honey, and enough water to make it drinkable or use any other fruit that has high water content like cantaloupe. And, don’t forget to have your kids drink plenty of tap water. Tap water contains fluoride, which protects kids’ teeth against cavities.

Learn more about how to prevent cavities