Dental Implants: Pros and Cons

Is Flavoured Milk Bad for Children's Teeth?

by Brett Clark

As a dairy product, milk plays a vital role in your child's growth and development. Milk is high in calcium and helps build strong bones and healthy teeth. Unfortunately, parents may find that their children stop wanting to drink milk once they get older, preferring to drink juices and sodas. You may, however, be able to get some milk into your children if you allow them to drink flavoured varieties. But what are the pros and cons for their teeth?

The Advantages of Flavoured Milk

Although flavoured milk adds ingredients to regular milk, it still contains all the benefits of the milk's calcium, casein and phosphorus. Offering flavored milk can be a good way of getting children to take in a serving of dairy, especially if they refuse to drink regular milk and don't usually eat other dairy products.

According to the Healthy Kids Association, children need a specific dairy intake right through to their teenage years. For example, children need 1½–2 servings of dairy products a day until they are 8 years of age and 2½–3½ servings after that. A 250 ml glass of milk equals one serving, taking you some way towards getting essential calcium into your child.

The Disadvantages of Flavoured Milk

Flavoured milks are typically quite sweet, which is part of the reason they appeal to kids. This sweetness may contribute to tooth decay if your child drinks a lot of flavoured milk with a high sugar content.

According to the Australian Department of Health, some flavoured milks can contain up to seven teaspoons of sugar in a 300 ml serving. Some of this sugar may be down to the milk's natural sugar content. For example, a 250 ml serving of low-fat milk contains the equivalent of three teaspoons of sugar. These lactose sugars don't harm the teeth; however, the added teaspoons of regular sugars in flavoured milk may not be so good for your children's teeth. 

Reap the Benefits and Avoid the Problems

If flavoured milk is the only dairy option your child will tolerate, you may have to bite the bullet and accept this drink option. To minimise the bad effects of flavoured milk, try the following tips:

  • Buy flavoured milk with a low sugar content or products made with artificial sweeteners.
  • Encourage your child to drink flavoured milk with a meal rather than as a snack. Your child's mouth has to manage stuff that can harm his or her teeth, such as sugars, every time he or she eats or drinks. If your child's mouth is working overtime trying to deal with meals and periodic snacks, it may not be able to protect your child's teeth as well. If you bundle milk up with a meal, you reduce the number of times your child's mouth has to give itself a workout.
  • Consider making your own flavoured milk drinks that contain less harmful natural sugars. For example, try blitzing a banana, a mango or a handful of strawberries with a serving of milk.

For further tips and to make sure your child's teeth are in good shape, set up an appointment with a local dentist