Health

Frustrated with high rates of tooth decay in children in Eastern Kentucky, dentist Nikki Stone decided to develop an educational tool for parents and children to remind them of their oral health.

She developed the New Drink Pyramid.

The pyramid borrows the same concept as the U.S. Agriculture Department’s MyPlate and Food Pyramid to outline healthy portions and frequency guidelines for beverages.

The pyramid uses catchy phrases like “Water Whenever,”  “Milk with Meals,” “Juice Just Once,” and “Pop Only at Parties” so children will easily remember what to drink and when.

“Whenever your child says ‘I’m thirsty’ you need to hand them water and nothing else,” Stone said. “No Gatorade, no soda pop, no juice. They need to be handed water whenever they’re thirsty.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends four to six ounces of juice a day for children ages 1 to 6, and 8 to 12 ounces for children 7 to 18.

This is a lesson Nicole Smith  and her family had to learn the hard way after her son’s oral health was affected by his juice consumption.

“He had a cavity that developed into a partial loss of the tooth. They had to go in  and put a cap on that tooth. The constant juice led to that tooth decay,” said Smith, who lives in Hazard. 

Children in Eastern Kentucky have the second-highest rate of tooth decay in the U.S., according to research by the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry.

Stone is a dentist at UK’s family dental clinic in Hazard. In 2006, she started questioning children about their drinking habit.

Many of the children told her they drank up to six carbonated beverages a day, she said.

“We really do have ‘pop culture’ here in our area,” Stone said. “Some of them were drinking soda pop with their breakfast and a lot of them were drinking four or five pops from the time they came home from school to the time they went to bed.”

Smith said she and her family found out about the drink pyramid last year—and it’s helped. She said she and her son have become a lot more conscious about what they drink and how much they consume.

“He has recited the drink pyramid on several occasions. He is definitely an obeyer of it,” Smith said.

“As a parent you need those reminders around, and you need the knowledge to know that it’s better for them in the long run if they’re drinking water and milk instead of the pop and the juice.”