BOISE -- No one likes having cavities -- especially kids.
However, dentists say children seem to be getting more and more of them. While it's hard to pinpoint exactly why cavities are increasing, many health professionals believe sugary drinks - including sports drinks, milk, and juice -- are to blame.
According to the American Dental Association, "When teeth come in frequent contact with soft drinks and other sugar-containing substances, the risk of decay formation is increased."
That activity can lead to cavities.
In 2007 -- the most recent data available -- the Center for Disease Control found that 42 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 11 had cavities in their baby teeth.
We did an interesting (though unscientific) experiment showing the effects of soaking an an egg in several common sports drinks, juice, and milk. Since eggshells are similar to the enamel in a child's teeth, we thought it might provide a good example of the damage the acid in these drinks can cause.
Click on the video link above to see the results!
Soda vs. Sports Drinks
While most people don't consider soda a healthy drink, sports drinks often have a different reputation. Many parents hand them to their kids after a long game. However, dentists say if you think sports drinks are a healthy choice for kids' teeth -- think again.
"It is not that way at all," said Dr. Wade Pilling with Aesthetic Smiles in Boise. "They are just as bad as things like Mountain Dew or Energy Drinks."
In fact, Dr. Pilling says sometimes sports drinks can be even worse for your teeth than some sodas. That's because one of the ingredients in sports drinks is almost always citric acid.
"If you have high acid levels in your mouth, you'll get more cavities," Pilling says.
Pilling also says it is can be hard to avoid giving sugary drinks to kids altogether, but there are some ways to minimize the cavity risk if you do choose to serve them to kids.
"Some people get large things of pop, and they'll sip them all day," said Dr. Pilling. "That is 100 times worse as just drinking it and being done with it."
If you quickly drink a glass of soda, the acid levels in your mouth will rise for a shorter period of time, meaning the acid won't have as long to break down your teeth.
Could milk and juice cause cavities?
Dr. Pilling says parents also need to aware that having kids sip on juice or milk all day long can lead to cavities. He says juice and milk are healthy choices for kids, but if kids are drinking a little bit throughout the day, the acid levels in their mouth will keep rising, possibly causing cavities.
Dr. Pilling knows it is almost impossible to avoid sugary drinks entirely. He says parents can help prevent their kids from getting cavities by limiting how often they have sugary drinks of any kind. However, when they do drink sugary drinks, Dr. Pilling says kids should try to brush their teeth as soon as possible, or rinse their mouths out with water.
However, even if parents do all these things, Dr. Pilling says some kids are just more prone to getting cavities than others. That's because dental health is determined by three factors, hygiene, genetics and diet.
Pilling says genetics is by the far the hardest to control, but dentists can prescribe some products to help prevent cavities.