As we kick off Children’s Dental Health Month 2021, KOHC is excited to highlight different oral health topics each week for Coalition members, professionals, and community members. This week is all about healthy drink choices to maintain a healthy mouth.

We know that parents and their children have a lot of choices for drinks to sip throughout the day, but some are much healthier than others. Options like soda and sports drinks contain high levels of added sugar and can cause serious harm to our teeth and gums. Although milk and fruit juice are often a staple for young children, they should still be limited to only certain times. The best choice for anyone to drink throughout the day is water.

The Drink Pyramid, created by Dr. Nikki Stone, a dentist in Eastern Kentucky, provides an easy to remember tool for parents to help their children make healthy drink choices. This pyramid shows that water is the best choice to drink at any time throughout the day, milk should only be served with meals, juice should be offered just once per day, and pop should only be available for children at special events like parties.

Any kind of water is a healthy drink choice for oral health, but tap water provides extra protection through fluoridation. In Kentucky, we are lucky to have a public water system that has provided fluoridated water to children and adults for over 70 years and has had a direct connection to improving the oral health of all Kentuckians. This regulation, administered by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has been a safe, reliable, cost-effective preventive measure to keep teeth strong and reduce cavities by at least 25%.

This year, SB 109 and HB 159 have been filed in the Kentucky General Assembly to allow communities to opt out of utilizing fluoridated water. With KOHC’s unifying interest to improve the oral health for all people in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, we are deeply concerned this piece of legislation would make water fluoridation programs administered by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services optional.

Fluoride benefits children and adults across lifespan and income levels. Additionally, as a state with growing budget deficits, an analysis of Medicaid claims in three states found that children living in fluoridated communities had lower treatment costs related to tooth decay than did similar children living in non-fluoridated communities. Fluoridation not only saves money, but it allows children and adults to learn and work free of dental pain.