The Sunday Telegraph has carried out an investigation into the amount of acid contained in various popular fruit drinks and smoothies, leading to warnings about the damage being done to many children’s teeth.
With recently published official statistics showing that dental problems are the third most common cause of juvenile hospital admissions, it’s clear that this is a major issue.
It seems that many parents are giving their children fruit juice and smoothies with the best intentions, without realising the harm they may be causing; the combination of sugar and acid is highly corrosive for children’s teeth.
Dr Kathy Harley at the Royal College of Surgeons said half of 5-year-olds have suffered damage to tooth enamel due to having too much acid in their diet.
She added that kids would actually be better off with a glass of water and a handful of chocolate buttons than fruit juice and a box of raisins.
Acidity is measured using the pH scale – 1 is strongly acidic, and 7 is neutral (water has a pH of 7 and milk is 6.8). Anything below 5.5 will have a destructive effect on tooth enamel.
The most acidic fruit drink identified in the Sunday Telegraph investigation was ‘This Water’ with lemon and limes, described on the label as a “juice drink blended with pure squeezed juices and pure spring water.” The drink had a pH level of 2.7, which makes it more acidic than cider vinegar (at 2.9). In addition, a 420ml bottle also contains 9.5 teaspoons of sugar.
Meanwhile, drinks such as Tropicana orange juice and Innocent smoothies had acid levels in the 3.3 to 3.8 range.
Overall, the most acidic drink tested was Coca Cola, with a pH of 2.5. A 500ml contains 12.5 teaspoons of sugar.
Dr Harley had this advice for parents: “The only healthy drinks for teeth are milk and water. Children are having fruit drinks and smoothies several times a day, when they these should be considered as a treat, something to have once a week.”
In order to neutralise the effect of acid in fruit and fruit juices, it’s best to consume them at meal times, rather than as snacks. Calcium-containing foods such as cheese are especially effective at neutralising the acid, whilst drinking water afterwards, and waiting at least an hour before brushing teeth, are also advised.