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Lucy Stock is a columnist for the Irish News

Parents Need to Hold the Line on Fizzy Drinks

by Lucy Stock BDS DipImpDent RCS (Eng)

Published in the Irish News . 14.05.2014

Nobody has ever come into my dental practice wanting their teeth to be in a worse condition and it goes without saying that the better we look after our teeth in childhood, the better our long term mouth health, comfort and appearance will be. Northern Ireland has the worst oral health in the UK. On average a five year old has over 2.5 teeth affected by decay which leads to pain and suffering. It’s clear that parents want the best for their children and there are straightforward things that parents can do to give their child the best teeth possible. Many families have particular beliefs about many things, including what they eat and drink. Take fizzy drinks, for example, people often believe that they give children an energy boost which keeps them going or diet drinks are healthy as they are “sugar free”. Sometimes it’s helpful to reflect on these kinds of beliefs and see if they really are appropriate for children nowadays.

In one recent study, published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology, a group of healthy adults took 90-minute mental tests after eating a small lunch on various days. On some days, about an hour after lunch, they drank a soft drink that had 42 grams of sugar and about 30 to 40 milligrams of caffeine. On other days, they drank a similarly flavoured drink with no sugar or caffeine. With the high sugar drink, the subjects’ mental test scores were lower and they had more delays in reaction time and lapses in attention. After a 15-minute rush of energy, they became tired and less alert. So contrary to what seems logical, fizzy drinks don’t give children the desired energy boost. Diet drinks are also harmful to teeth as they contain acids that dissolve teeth.

It’s not always the best thing to keep doing what we have always done however changing our eating and drinking habits takes resolve. It’s hard to say no to children but parents need to take control and stand firm and not be persuaded by the pleas. Improved health, appearance, comfort and self-esteem can be motivating factors when considering reducing the fizzy drinks that our children get. It can be an idea to agree one day a week when the kids are allowed fizzy drinks. Reducing the frequency reduces tooth decay.