A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine go Down

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As Mary Poppins teaches, a Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine go Down. Most of the prescribed medications that our children take contain a high amount of sugar which can increase the risk of cavities. The simple reason is that many medicines have a bitter or unpleasant taste. The most common type of medication with a high amount of sugar are liquid medicines that are given to kids.

Children take many different types of medications for many different reasons. Some of the most common medications prescribed to kids are antibiotics, pain medications including ibuprofen and acetaminophen and also medications such at Benadryl, all of which have sugar added. An example of the sugar in a common antibiotic is amoxicillin, used commonly for eat infections and even dental infections. A dose of 5 mL of amoxicillin has about half a teaspoon of sugar. A dose of Ibuprofen or Tylenol may have between a third and half a teaspoon of sugar. If a child is ill and taking several doses of mediation a day for a week or more this can result in eating a lot of sugar!

As a parent, my main concern with sweetened medicines are that children will like the flavor and attempt to eat it when not supervised. More than 60000 children are treated in the emergency room every year due to accidental overdoses of medications in the home. The best way to prevent this is to keep medicines locked or in a place where kids can’t get into them.

As a pediatric dentist, my concern with sweetened medicines is that they may contribute to a higher risk of cavities. My best advice is to make sure to brush your children’s teeth after taking any type of liquid medication. This will help reduce the risk of getting cavities and make sure that your child’s dental health will match the health of their body.


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