Beware the extra sugar in drinks for kids

There was a time when mothers, especially in the South, were advised to give young children sugar or honey wrapped in cloth to suck on as a form of pacifier.

Even today, a debate continues about whether sugar or sugar water can help alleviate pain in babies.

For now, however, the majority opinion is parents should skip that spoonful of sugar when it comes to their children, be it in water, juice or soda.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, which brings an increased focus on the importance of regular dental check-ups and a balanced diet, along with frequent brushing, flossing and rinsing.

But this year, the focus also is on avoiding any added sugar in what children drink.

The theme of this year’s campaign, “Choose Water for a Sparkling Smile,” urges parents to guide their children toward plain water when possible over sweetened beverages.

Some tips from the American Dental Association to better ensure young children have a healthy mouth:

— Place only formula, milk or breast milk in bottles. Avoid filling the bottle with liquids such as sugar water, juice or soft drinks.

— Infants should finish their bedtime and naptime bottles before going to bed.

— If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean – don’t dip it in sugar or honey, or put it in your mouth before giving it to the child.

— Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday and discourage frequent or prolonged use of sippy cups.

— Serve nutritious snacks and limit sweets to mealtimes.

Older children should follow the same rules. Sugars and starches encourage the production of plaque that can attack tooth enamel. Also, it’s not just the sugar in soft drinks that decays teeth; it’s the acid, too, making this double trouble.

So keep it simple — stick with straight water as the beverage of choice for children.