Kids love candy, and while we know it’s not good for them, we also know they’re going to eat it. Chocolate bunnies, Peeps and Jelly Beans can be just a way of life this time of year. So, how best to survive the holidays that are traditionally surrounded by sugar?
Understanding How Sweets Affect Teeth
A good rule of thumb is: the less time sugar spends in the mouth, the better it is for their teeth. In other words, if you have the choice between giving your child a lollipop, which will last for half an hour, and a chocolate kiss, which will dissolve in minutes, go with what will be gone the quickest. Also, small amounts of sugar eaten frequently are much more harmful than large amounts of sugar eaten in one sitting, so if you must let your child indulge in holiday sweets, it’s better for them to go “whole hog” and get it over with than to nibble and make it last.
While hard candies are the worst offenders for decay and bacteria, there’s new research out there that suggests that chocolates may actually offset some of the harm. Recently touted to prevent heart disease and cancer, chocolate (and, specifically, cocoa butter it contains) can help stop the bacteria that cause decay by coating teeth with a protective film. This effect is significant enough that a recent study by Japanese researchers suggested that cocoa extract may even be added to toothpaste or mouthwash someday. Until that day comes!
Tips for Keeping Your Child's Teeth Healthy
- Dairy products such as cheese and milk can help create a buffer from the acids produced by oral bacteria – so giving kids dairy when they eat candy can help protect teeth.
- Have kids enjoy sweet treats after a meal, when saliva production is greatest and can help protect teeth.
- Encourage brushing and flossing as soon after a sugary treat is enjoyed and give a privilege or prize that is not food-related!
- If they can’t brush right away, encourage them to rinse their mouth or have a glass of water after the treat – just so that they can off the sugar before it does damage.
Lastly, think about some alternatives to Easter candy. Instead of filling up baskets and plastic eggs with sugary sweets, consider stickers, small toys, crayons or high-bounce rubber balls. Kids love them, and you’ll love fewer unscheduled stops at the dentist’s office.