Home Health and Health Care The Effect Of Excess Sugar On Children’s Teeth

The Effect Of Excess Sugar On Children’s Teeth

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Presented with a great deal of sadness, this is a letter that Fooducate received from one of its readers, a dentist:

Hi Fooducate,

Attached is a picture of the mouth of a 4 year old kid !!!!!!!

He used to “love” sodas and juices. As you can see, the dangers of soft drinks are beyond calories! I moved from Italy some years ago to USA, and believe me, it is SHOCKING to see the way many people eat here. Adults can choose, but kids can’t. They depend on the knowledge of their parents, especially their mothers.

Credit: Fooducate

This kind of damage – we need to stop it. All the industries making billions of dollars by destroying the health of innocent kids. For me all these drink “products” are not food.. I call them “poisons”….

When I educate the mothers of my patients about the causes of their tooth decay, many of them cry, since they truly believed that the juices and drinks they saw advertised (with supplements of vitamins, minerals, etc) are healthy for their children.

As you can imagine, when a kid has a mouth like this (I cannot imagine the pain), they can’t chew, so the only thing that they can do – tragic solution – is drink to avoid more pain! So they drink more juice. Can you believe how tragic the situation is? For me, it is like you are putting gasoline to the fire, thinking that you will stop it.

Some juices and soft drinks have a pH around 2.30 whereas our pH in balance will be around 7.00. When I explain to parents that the battery acid (for a car) is 1.00, and they are serving their children liquids with a very close percentage of acidity (plus in some cases 12 tsp os sugars in a 12 oz drink) they are without words…

So why we do not turn back to remember what Hippocrates  said: A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings and let our food be our medicine, and our medicine be our food.

I would like to share with you an anecdote from when we just moved to USA from Europe. My youngest daughter said to me “Mom, you should quickly learn English!” When I asked “why?”, she said “Well just look at the paint that you bought thinking that it is yogurt…”

It’s hard to find “normal products” here, like yogurt or bread or cookies without sugars added, corn syrup, trans fats, hydrogenated oils..and who knows how many others “fancy” ingredients that sometimes you need a degree to be able to read and imagine what could it mean?.

Even going to the restaurant to find a salad without sugary dressing is difficult. In Italy, you have olive oil and balsamic vinegar and you are all set.


I have my thoughts, but I’d rather hear yours. As the mother of a four-year old who hasn’t even lost her first tooth yet… I can’t look at that picture for too long. I might even pull it down.

My word.

I think this is a rather unfortunate situation of not seeing the forest for the trees. It’s being blinded by pretty marketing. The big sign that says “Fortified with vitamin c!” might cause you to overlook the 32 grams of sugar in one serving… which is usually a serving size that you accidentally double when you give to your child. (Or, if your kid is like mine, they realized that you give teeny little cups so they ask you for a drink of it several times a day.)

This also makes me think about environments where kids are heavy on the juice – the “lil hugs,” the quarter waters, the juicies – and are probably light on dental insurance. It’s… just something to think about. At least this mom could get some kind of insight from a professional. What about the ones who cannot?

Just… some things on my mind as I read this…and sigh a little bit.

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Alovelydai March 31, 2011 - 12:05 PM

I failed terribly with my oldest child. We don’t drink cow’s milk so aside from rice/soy milk her drink of choice was OJ & Juicy Juice. Complicate that with being a young mom, working 2 part time gigs & going to school full time (this was many moons ago) her little top teeth rotted and she had to get caps. Years later & with a son who has great baby teeth my daughter’s toddler/preschool pictures still haunt me. I urge all moms to dilute their kids juice drinks, get them to love water early (my son prefers it) and start brushing & adopting healthy teeth habits as soon as that 1st tooth comes in.

lynne March 31, 2011 - 12:51 PM

Thanks for the post. I have a 2yr old and we are constantly battling juice vs water. I always dilute the juice, but this is going to make me reduce it even further. I struggle daily with healthy meals for her, but I’m determined to make healthy choices. The picture is very disturbing….. leave it up. We need to be disturbed in order to change.

BlackBetty March 31, 2011 - 2:38 PM

I have a friend who gives her baby juice every time she cries. I tried telling her she’s bored or just needs to play but juice, each and every time. Maybe seeing this picture will stop it.
Living in one of the neighborhoods mentioned in the article, I see the kids eating chips, candy and drinking quarter juice for breakfast. Like they said, you just know they don’t have dental insurance. I truly hope this affects someone positively.

Green Afro Diva March 31, 2011 - 6:31 PM

This is quite heartbreaking to see. My daughter will be turning 4 this year and her dental appointment is coming up next month. I think that another culprit to this is giving the kids milk and/or juice before they go to sleep without brushing their teeth. I made it a point to giver my daughter water if she’s thirsty instead of juice lately. I dilute her drinks with water most of the time but I know there are times when I’m caught slippin.

Eve April 1, 2011 - 1:16 AM

This is very sad. We don’t drink juice very often, but my 4 yr old loves candy. He had his 6 month check up in February; he needed one filling. After the visit we stopped to pick up some groceries and he asked for a sucker. I told him he would have to go back to the dentist tomorrow instead of August if he ate the candy. He put it back. He brushes his teeth very well and I floss them for him, but I think the key as parents isn’t just to restrict our children from the sugars, but help them understand (as much as you can with a toddler) + make better choices.

Lynaya April 1, 2011 - 6:43 AM

I work teach in an area where kids drink soda and juice like a camel drinks water. They bring a “snack” to take to lunch (I don’t understand that concept) which includes chips, juice, and something sweet like cookies. Every single class I’ve ever had, there has been at least one kid with metal caps in the back of their mouth……
Thanks for putting this up. It’s something I can share with my colleagues and will definitely promote some conversations on how we can educate our kids, because clearly, many parents don’t know better.

Dre April 1, 2011 - 9:17 AM

Very disturbing. I can’t help but think about programs like WIC that promote the use of sugery juices for children. If you are unaware of the damage these drinks can cause you may think you are giving your child a healthy alternative compared to soda. I think parents, especially low income parents need to be told the true harm all of these juices may cause.

Curlstar April 1, 2011 - 2:02 PM

Leave the pic up. I have to show this to my husband, who is a juice junkie. He is determined to have at least 2 bottles of 100% juice in the house. But what I try to tell him is that we don’t need that juice and that it’s better to eat the actual fruit instead. The actual fruit is not from concentrate like the juices we buy, and there’s the fiber factor that helps. Our boys haven’t had any dental problems yet, and I want to keep it that way.

Joy April 16, 2011 - 12:03 PM

Wow, that picture is frightening. Thanks for the sobering reminder. My son hasn’t gone to the dentist yet and he is just about to turn 4. We probably need to take him this summer. We got a late start on making sure we looked after his teeth, but I’m hoping the brushing and flossing will pay off on that first visit. Here’s a great reference for how to encourage healthy teeth for kids of all ages – Mom’s Guide to Caring for Little Teeth.

Michelle April 19, 2011 - 9:37 AM

So awhile back when my grandmother passed away she asked on her deathbed that we bring up on afamily member that was poor and start her a new life. She ended up sending us her two kids instead. The little girl who was my favorite actually ended up at our doorstep with a mouth like this. We brought her in and she begged for juice. We didn’t have juice at the time, and she cried and cried. Took her to the dentist, and just about all of her baby teeth has decayed because of constant juice and soda intake. I never understood why a a parent would think it’s okay. I’m all for knowing that maybe they didn’t know but a parent should have looked into it when the teeth started decaying and stopped the damn soda and juice. It really angers me because these parents are the same parents i see on twitter, talking about they don’t drink cheap liquor but they eat garbage, and feed their “precious” kids garbage. Why are you more concerned about Ciroc or Belev then you are eating a chemically altered chicken part sandwich???

Ros May 26, 2011 - 11:58 AM

I know you mentioned taking the picture down but I would implore you to leave it up. My son had to have caps placed on 5 of his uppers at the age of 24 months because I put him to bed every night with a bottle consisting of formula mixed with cereal or baby food (fruit usually). When I saw his teeth steadily decaying I was so scared. I took him to a pediatric dentist who took 1 look in his mouth and immediately stated, “you put him to bed with a bottle!” My son was experiencing baby bottle rot. Because of sugar, he had to endure necessary and painful procedures so his teeth could be saved. That photo you have on here serves as a serious reminder to parents and they need to see it as disturbing as it may be. Thank God my son’s mouth is in good shape now but let’s be proactive rather than reactive.

Bettie September 20, 2011 - 10:11 PM

I don’t normally post, but reading that post made me grab my toddler and brush her teeth. We are good about diluting juice and all that, but my biggest issue is unscrupulous dentists and the one pedo to whom I was referred is booked till 2020 – just joking, but she might as well be! I have begged my dentist to see her, but she prefers children to go to peds. I’m going to check out another practice, but I’m so worried because I had an overzealous dentist place shallow fillings in all my permanent molars when I was younger. Wish me luck and keep brushing!!

MJ February 23, 2012 - 1:32 PM

This is just a sad state of affairs all around. I am sure that baby is in pain and maybe even the victim of teasing and bullying at school. Howsoever, the bulk of the blame needs to be at the feet of the parents that started the bad habits not the juice industry. For this baby to have suffered this much decay by 4-years old, there is a good chance that they do not know their way around a toothbrush either, especially not brushing twice a day. I have a 5-year old and have taken him to the dentist every 6-months since his first birthday and I did this WITHOUT dental insurance. I find that pediatric dentists are more concerned with the oral health of the child rather than the $$$. My son’s dentist has given discounts on exams, comp’d x-rays, cleanings, etc. when I didn’t have the money because he felt it was important and I agreed. The child in this picture has been done a great disservice and I am sure the parents feel guilt and in my opinion, THEY SHOULD! I know I sound harsh but there are PLENTY of resources to KNOW better so that you can DO better.

Hehe August 15, 2012 - 2:47 AM

Sadly this is my cousin’s son. He’s 4 and already has 5 cavities. He already had one of his tooth extracted and is going to get another one removed. My cousin swears that the cause of her son’s cavities is due to how his teeth are spaced out. He’s been dealing with tooth issues since developing his first tooth. I tell her to stop feeding him so much sweet things but she doesn’t believe she gives him a lot of sweets(which isn’t true). Every second she gives him soda, or overly sweeten juices.His eating habit is poor and mostly consist of sweets, process foods and fast food. He barely eats any vegetables.

Willow August 16, 2012 - 8:33 PM

I don’t have kids but I have friends who give their toddlers juice, soda, frappacinos, cookies, chips, etc. And I would always tell them to be careful and think about how they would feel when their kids would have to get caps at the age of 5. They tell me I am overreacting and that I will understand when I have kids. I’m sorry but this has to be some form of neglect or child endangerment.

NativeNuYorker February 3, 2013 - 8:43 AM

I see this quite often in urban schools, teeth that are decayed at the age of 6 and 7. They have parents that won’t read sites such as this. I’ve even seen a mother put Snapple ice tea in a bottle and feed it to a baby that appeared to be 4-6 months old.

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