While visions of sugarplums are dancing in children’s heads, visions of cavities are dancing in the heads of their parents! Kids love sweets, and the holiday season is a cornucopia of seasonal candies, cookies and desserts, some of which come around only once a year. While I know you’ll do your best to limit sweets as much as possible, I also understand that enjoying the holiday season is important! Here are some ways to minimize damage to your kids’ teeth and gums during this fun season!
Why Sugar is Bad for Teeth
Everyone’s mouth contains bacteria. When bacteria feeds on sugar, acid is the result. The acid eats away at tooth enamel, leading to decay. The more time teeth are exposed to sugar, the higher the risk for dental problems.
The Best and Worst Treats for Kids’ Teeth
Chocolate is high on the list of “best” sweets for all of us, because chocolate contains compounds that have an antibacterial effect. Studies have proven that this fights against plaque, making chocolate the least harmful treat. The best chocolate is dark chocolate, which contains only about 6-8 grams of sugar per serving.
The worst sweet? Candy canes and other sticky sweets like taffy and caramels, because they stick to the teeth, literally bathing them in sugary acid, eating away at dental enamel.
Helpful Holiday Tips
- Brush More Often
Although I always recommend brushing teeth and gums twice a day for two minutes each time, during the holidays, have the children brush more often, i.e., as soon as possible after eating dessert or a sweet treat. If a toothbrush isn’t handy, rinse with water to wash away as much of the acids, food and sugar that may be stuck in the teeth.
- Limit Sugar
Yes, I know this is easier said than done, but try to time high-sugar ingestion after a meal and at a time when kids can rinse or brush afterwards. To avoid the bedtime “sugar jitters,” have a “no candy after 5 pm” rule. Some of our NYC pediatric dental families have a “2-pieces a day” rule as well.
- Promote Sugar-Free Gum
Sugar-free gum, especially gums recommended by the American Dental Association, help increase saliva flow, which “rinses” teeth and decreases acid exposure. Chewing gum is an excellent alternative to brushing or rinsing after eating a sweet treat, and kids love gum! Just be sure the chewed pieces don’t end up on a relative’s table leg!
- Offer Cheese as Dessert
Mozzarella sticks, for example, are high in calcium and phosphorus, known to promote healthy dental enamel. If the kids balk at cheese as a dessert, pair the cheese with whatever sweet is also offered—eat your sweet, then eat your cheese!
- Make a Dental Appointment
Winter break is an excellent time for your child’s 6-month checkup! Call us today before our schedule is full!