ACCESSIBILITY

Soft Drinks Increase Cavities

Kids who drink more soda and other sugared drinks also increase their risk for cavities, new research concludes.

The study was part of the Detroit Dental Health Project. The project focuses on why some low-income African-American children have better oral health than others do. The researchers wanted to know if the type of sugar-containing drinks a child drank could affect cavity risk.

The study kept track of 369 children for 2 years. They were between the ages of 3 and 5 at the start of the study.

At the start of the study, and again two years later, the researchers:

  • Examined each child's mouth and teeth
  • Asked parents about the food and drink the child had consumed during the last week
  • Asked how much milk, 100% fruit juice and soft drinks the child drank in a typical day. "Soft drinks" included sugared soda and any non-carbonated sugary drink except for 100% fruit juice.

 

The researchers calculated each child's total sugar intake, because sugary foods also can lead to cavities. They also had information on how often the children visited the dentist, and why they visited.

Children fell into four categories:

  • Some drank mostly milk and fruit juice throughout the study (43%).
  • Some drank more milk and fruit juice at the beginning of the study, but more soft drinks at the end (28%).
  • Some drank mostly soft drinks throughout the study (21%).
  • Some drank more soft drinks at the beginning of the study, but more milk and fruit juice at the end (8%).

 

At the start of the study, about 3 of every 10 children drank mostly soft drinks. By the end of the study, about 5 of every 10 children drank mostly soft drinks.

At the end of the study, these children were drinking about 33 ounces of soft drinks per day – about the amount in 3 cans of soda. They also drank 15 ounces of milk or juice.

The other children drank about 28 ounces of milk and juice. They also drank about 12 ounces of soft drinks per day, or about 1 can of soda.

After two years, just under half of all of the children had at least one new cavity. Children who drank mostly soft drinks at the end of the study had more cavities than kids who always drank mostly milk and fruit juice.

Any child who drank a lot of soft drinks at the end of the study had almost three times the risk of getting a filling during the two-year period. Also, children who had cavities at the beginning of the study were more likely to have new ones by the end.

Total sugar intake (drinks plus food) was not related to cavity risk. Income, parent's education level, and toothbrushing frequency also were not related to cavity risk in this study.

The study did not measure how much water the children drank. The public water supply in Detroit is fluoridated. Children who drank more water may have reduced their risk for cavities.

The authors suggest that soft drinks should be limited to a few times a week in young children, if not eliminated altogether. This could reduce the risk of cavities.

The study appears in the July issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.