South Charlotte Family Dentistry last talked about how to fill our children’s plates with healthy, balanced foods, but what about what we pour into their sippy cups and glasses?
Children are rapidly growing and have high metabolic rates, meaning that they experience greater water loss through the skin and excrete more urine than adults. All of this adds up to children losing more water than they intake, meaning children are much more susceptible to dehydration! Drinking water is also super important to our oral health, preventing dry mouth, bad breath, and tooth decay. So how can we make sure children they’re getting the right amount of water, especially on these hot summer days?
“I’m SO thirsty! Can I have a drink?”
Our best advice? Whenever your child tells you they are thirsty, offer water first! Children will learn to associate water with quenching their thirst if it’s always what’s being offered to them.
Children don’t always tell us when they’re thirsty. Young children especially can experience more difficulty communicating their need for water, and so it’s up to their caregivers to recognize, supply, and ensure sufficient water intake throughout the day.
Daily water intake can vary from child to child depending on a variety of factors, such as age, weight, sex, air temperature and humidity, and activity levels. Water intake based on age range provides an average recommendation for a healthy kid living in a temperate climate; you should consult your pediatrician for what’s right for your kid or teen.
|Age Range||Sex||Total Water (Cups/Day)|
|2 to 4 years old||Male and Female||2 to 4 cups|
|4 to 8 years old||Male and Female||7|
|9 to 13 years old||Male||9|
|14 to 18 years old||Male||14|
If you’re reading the cups per day and freaking out, hold on! It’s important to keep in mind that the recommendations are for total water intake per day. This means that we’re including water from drinking water and consuming other beverages and food. Fruit and vegetables have a lot higher water content than other solid food, which makes the calorie content low and the nutrient level high, giving your children a balanced meal and providing sufficient water intake.
Make a splash by getting creative with H20!
Plain water doesn’t float everyone’s boat all the time, but don’t be afraid to jazz it up!
Here are some quick ideas to make hydrating throughout the day more fun for your child:
- Make sipping fun by using a cute, themed cup based on their interests (e.g. Disney, Paw Patrol, glitter)
- Use a silly straw!
- Freeze ice cubes together in animal-shaped trays
- Freeze fruit together and let your child add as wanted to their drink
- Make water more visually enticing with a fruit infuser bottle
- Have balanced fruit and veggie smoothie!
Sparkling waters flavored naturally with lime, lemon, other fruity flavors are a fine stand-in for kids who want the carbonation that reminds them of soda. Sparkling water is 100% water, meaning it’s just as hydrating as plain water is. Because they’re unsweetened with zero sugar, they are a better choice than fruit punches, soda, sports drinks, or other sugary drinks.
But, is sparkling water bad for your child’s teeth?
The jury is still out on this one. The American Dental Association cites sugary drinks as the leading cause of tooth decay in kids and teens, as over time, the drinks erode tooth enamel. Any drinks that have a pH less than 4 are potentially damaging to the teeth. Sparkling water has a low pH between 2.74-3.34. Sparkling water may have the potential to erode tooth enamel and since they’re typically flavored with citric acid, should be considered “acidic fruit drinks” and not just flavored water.
For comparison, here are other leading children’s drinks pH levels:
|Tropicana 100% Apple Juice||3.5|
The best way to flavor water is by adding fruit like blueberries, pineapples, and strawberries, or vegetables like cucumber or mint to water. Watch out for flavored water containing artificial sweeteners like Sucralose or Aspartame – when in doubt, don’t assume flavored water is naturally flavored, and read the label thoroughly!
Reach for tap water over bottled water.
Tap water contains fluoride, which is a natural mineral that’s absorbed into tooth enamel and resists tooth decay. Without fluoride, we’re more susceptible to cavities. The American Dental Association notes that if you primarily drink bottled water, your family may be missing out on the benefits of fluoride! If your tap water doesn’t have fluoride, you can add it to your children’s diet by choosing foods that naturally contain fluoride like grapes, potatoes, and hot cereals. Your pediatric dentist at South Charlotte Dentistry can also apply a fluoride varnish for added protection.
Limit juices and save sports drinks for game days.
Juice is loaded with sugar! Most juice drinks like Capri Sun or Hi-C have a fraction of real juice. 100% fruit juice is good for kids sometimes, but children should have no more than 6 ounces a day for kids ages 1 to 6, and no more than 12 ounces for kids over 7.
Always provide appropriate hydration during and after exercise or physical activity.
Here’s where quality over quantity of fluid intake comes in. If your kid is playing on sports teams or just running around the neighborhood for hours playing, they’re going to need more water! Before and after play, give them two to three cups of water. During any breaks of activity, encourage them to take anywhere from 6 to eight big gulps of water.
If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s water intake, fluoride, or oral health, give South Charlotte Dentistry a call today!