The conventional wisdom that children should drink fruit juice as part of a healthy diet is largely false. In fact, recent studies have shown that the combination of high acid levels and sugar present in juice can erode children’s tooth enamel quite rapidly. This doesn’t just apply to plain juice, but also to seemingly healthy smoothies which often contain large amounts of juice.
Kathy Harley, dean of the dental faculty at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, England, has noted that 50 percent of five-year-olds now show signs of damaged tooth enamel caused by excess acid in their diet. Harley believes that because of the large amount of acid and sugar contained in juice, it should be limited to a “once a week treat,” and children should otherwise be drinking water for most of their fluid intake, along with milk.
It’s important to understand that tooth enamel begins to break down when acid levels in the mouth drop below 5.5 on the pH scale, and the lower the acid rating, the more destructive the acid level is. While water has a pH of 7 (a neutral pH), and milk is just below at 6.8, many juices and juice-like beverages such as Sunny Delight can have pH levels that are more acidic than cider vinegar. pHs of this level can literally strip the enamel right off of teeth, given enough exposure. Given the difficulty of thoroughly brushing children’s teeth when they are very young, it’s best to limit acidic foods and beverages as much as possible.
—Dr. Shannon Norman-Kotre, Ann Arbor Dentist