Chances are good that visions of cookies, desserts and candy canes may be dancing in your children’s heads this holiday season. While you will do what you can to limit their intake of these sugary treats, your kids will probably be eating their fair share of sugar at your family holiday parties. Despite their consumption of sugar, there are ways to keep your kids’ healthy teeth and gums in shape and to minimize damage to their dental health.
Why Is Sugar Bad for Dental Health?
Whether your kids are eating chocolate cake, sugar cookies or peppermint candy, they are ingesting sugar. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth feed on this sugar, and the byproduct is acid. This acid can eat away at tooth enamel, which can lead to tooth decay and cavities. The more time teeth spend exposed to sugar, the higher the risk that your children will face dental health problems. Hard candies, and sticky candies such as taffy and caramel, can be worse for teeth than other treats such as cake and cookies.
Brush after Eating a Sugary Treat
In general, the ADA recommends that everyone brush their teeth and gums at least twice a day for at least two minutes each time. Flossing should also be done at least once a day. During the holidays, encourage your kids to brush and floss even more than this, particularly right after they finish dessert. If a toothbrush is not handy, the next best thing to do is rinse. Encourage your kids to rinse their mouths with water — not soda or even sparkling grape juice — which will help wash away sugar, acids and any other food that may be stuck to their teeth.
Limit Sugar Time
Hard candy is one of the worst offenders at wreaking havoc on your kids’ healthy teeth because your child will be sucking on the candy for a long period. Additionally, limit the amount of soda and juice that your children drink since these wash over teeth and gums. If your children do eat hard candy or drink soda, encourage them at least to rinse afterwards. Sugarless gum is also a great way to keep your kids’ mouths busy while boosting saliva production, which will help wash away sugar.
You may also want to do as the French do and make cheese a part of dessert. Cheeses, such as mozzarella sticks, are not only kid friendly, they are also known to neutralize acid in the mouth, according to the ADA.
Make Dessert a Part of the Meal
Rather than serving dessert last, incorporate it into the holiday meal. This is helpful, because it is better to eat sugar at the same time as a balanced meal. The other more healthy foods will not only displace the sugar from your teeth, but they can also aid in neutralizing any acids from the ingested sugar.
Make Toothbrushing Fun
While it is important to stress good dental care throughout the year, the holidays present a special opportunity to make dental health fun. Perhaps you can buy your children a toothbrush in their favorite color or a toothbrush that is decorated with their favorite cartoon character. Colored floss is also fun!
Schedule a Dentist Visit
Last but not least, your child probably has time off from school around the holidays. This is a great time to schedule a cleaning and checkup with your children’s dentist. As always, you can ask your dentist for additional tips on how to keep your kids’ teeth healthy during the holidays.