Your child is thirsty. Go fill up a glass of water, then add TEN teaspoons of sugar … you know, for “flavor”. Would you do that? I’m sure you want your kids to take the right steps toward good dental health and hygiene early in life. Most parents know that candy, cookies, and other sweets have tons of sugar in them, but it’s important to also realize that drinks are often the primary culprits for unnecessary sugars. Beverages like sports drinks, sodas, fitness waters, and, sad to say, fruit juice, have many teaspoons of sugar in them – and also harmful acid (not to mention the tsunami of plastic trash that goes with them).


Best drink options for children and teens? Milk and water. (I recommend avoiding fruit juice, soda, and sports drinks.)


What drinks have the most sugar in them? Check out the beverages below to see if any of your child’s favorite drinks make the list! (Don’t rejoice if your child’s favorite soda is not on this list … they’re all up around 10 tsp or more.)

  • • Sunkist Orange Soda – 13 tsp
  • • Barq’s Root Beer – 11 tsp
  • • Coca Cola Classic – 10 tsp
  • • Red Bull – 10 tsp
  • • Sprite – 10 tsp
  • • Minute Maid Lemonade – 10 tsp
  • • Orange juice – 7 tsp
  • • Gatorade – 7 tsp


Sugar converts to acid in just 20 seconds! In just that short amount of time, any sugar on your child’s teeth from food and drink will turn into acid and begin attacking their enamel. Over time, that acid eats away at the protective coating on their teeth and begins to cause cavities. It’s also important to note that kids and teens are more susceptible to tooth decay because their enamel is not fully developed and is less resistant to the acid.


Umm, not really. Diet sodas don’t have harmful sugars like regular sodas, but they’re still extremely high in acid. In fact, a can of Diet Coke has a pH level of 3.1. For reference, water has a neutral pH level of 7.0 and battery acid is extremely acidic with a pH level of 1.0. Uh oh! The effects of drinking acidic beverages like sports drinks, lemonade, orange juice, and regular/diet soda, begin almost immediately, and continue for 20 minutes – the amount of time it takes saliva to neutralize the acid. With every sip, the 20-minute acid attack starts again.


Here are some quick recommendations to help keep your child’s teeth healthy:

  • • Children should drink only water between meals. Tough love, I know.
  • • Limit milk and juice consumption to mealtimes. Children should have no more than 4 ounces of juice per day. (Somehow the fruit juice lobby successfully convinced us their product is healthy.)
  • • Don’t put children to bed with a bottle or glass of milk. Milk contains sugar and will essentially pool around the child’s teeth all night resulting in tooth decay.
  • • Just Say No! Young children should not consume sports drinks or diet/regular soda.
  • • Unfortunately, roughly 30 percent of children consume two or more sugary beverages a day – according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (study findings based on consumption between 2011 and 2014).


Remember to take care of your teeth too! Here are some ways you can lower your sugar intake and keep harmful acids off your teeth:

  • • Drink soda in moderation. Do not consume more than one 12-ounce can a day.
  • Rinse your mouth with water after drinking soda or sports drinks. (or eating sugary foods)
  • • Chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva production and cleanse your mouth.
  • • Drink plenty of water – I recommend eight glasses a day.
  • • Don’t drink soda right before bedtime.

Here’s some more information to sip on:

  • • Today’s teens drink three times more soda than 20 years ago, often using it as a replacement for milk.
  • • A bottle of soda in the ‘50s was 6.5 ounces. Today, a 12-ounce can is standard and even a 20-ounce bottle is common. You really want to super-size that Big Gulp?
  • • Larger container sizes mean more calories, more sugar and more acid in a single serving. A 64-ounce “Big Cup” has more than five cans of soda in a single serving!

Remember that sugary drinks can negatively impact your child’s health in a number of ways. In addition to cavities, overconsumption is associated with weight gain, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol in children, which is why we recommend avoiding sugary beverages all together. If you have any questions about your child’s diet and how it affects their teeth, talk to one of our team. We’re here for you.

“I have been Dr. McNeil’s patient for more years than I can count. From the first day I met him and received treatment, I knew I did not need to look any further for a friendly, professional, and competent dentist. He has a unique office manner that makes you feel comfortable throughout any procedure (and I have experienced most).”

Ron S.