The holiday season is upon us. Of course, along with time spent with family and friends, that also means delicious treats! At Bitesize Pediatric Dentistry, we know many sweets are tied to tradition and we’d never expect the kiddos to munch on broccoli while everyone else was eating pie. However, there are things that parents can do to help keep their kids’ teeth healthy for the holidays.
- Strive for Balance – Enjoying sugary, starchy and acidic food and beverages in moderation is key. The bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar and starches and when they do this, they form plaque and release acids that eat away at the tooth’s enamel, which can eventually lead to cavities in kids. Acidic foods and drinks can further the erosion of the enamel. While during the rest of the year, it’s easy to limit treats, it’s pretty difficult during the holidays. Instead, it’s all about balance. If you know you’re having a big family dinner with tons of desserts, make sure your child’s breakfast and lunch are full of foods that strengthen teeth, such as fresh vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean proteins, and go light on the added sugar. Or, if you’re not entertaining at home and you’ll be spending your holiday season out and about, stock your own fridge and pantry with healthy food. This way you know, at least when you’re home, the family is enjoying options with less sugar and more nutrients.
- Rethink Some of the Classics – Another good idea for embracing moderation and keeping kids’ teeth healthy during the holidays is to revamp some of the classics and make them healthier when you can. For example, adding more milk and less chocolate to hot chocolate or using whole wheat flour instead of white and cutting out some of the sugar in homemade baked goods.
- Prioritize Brushing and Flossing – During the holidays, bed times are often extended and after jam-packed days, it’s tempting to go right to sleep, letting brushing and flossing fall to the wayside. However, making oral hygiene even more of a priority during the holidays can go a long way in protecting kids’ teeth. Have children brush their teeth using a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes in the morning and before bed, and floss once daily. If your child has a particularly sugar-filled or sticky snack, they may want to brush afterwards or at least rinse their mouth out with water so the sugar doesn’t sit on the teeth.
- Keep Up With Dental Visits – If your child is scheduled for a routine cleaning and check-up during the holiday season, don’t skip it. These preventative care visits are so important for kids’ healthy teeth. During professional dental cleanings, we’re able to remove hardened plaque that you can’t get rid of with a toothbrush at home. We can also make sure your child’s smile is healthy and developing properly. If we spot any problems, we can address them early while they’re easier to treat.
- Don’t Linger With Food and Drinks – We’re not promoting eating or drinking at super speed. However, after you have something to eat or drink, the acids that are released from the bacteria in the mouth stay there for about a half hour before they’re neutralized. Every time you take another bite or sip, the clock begins again. The best thing to do to promote kids’ healthy teeth during the holidays (or any time of year) is to have sugary foods and drinks in one sitting and then be done with them instead of hanging on to, say, some cookies and eating them slowly over the course of several hours.
- Give a Few Tooth-Friendly Holiday Gifts – Adding a few tooth-friendly holiday gifts into the mix can be a good step towards keeping kids’ teeth healthy during the holidays and beyond. Older kids might like an electric toothbrush while a really fun, colorful toothbrush makes a good stocking stuffer or Hanukkah add-on for little ones.
- Encourage Water – Water helps wash away food debris and bacteria. It also stimulates saliva production, which neutralizes plaque acids. Plus, there is no sugar in water, making it the perfect drink. Throughout the day, have kids stick with water in lieu of juice or any sweet drinks. It’s also a good idea to follow-up sugary drinks with a glass of water to get rid of any lingering traces of the beverage.
As you can see, just a few small tweaks can be effective for keeping kids’ teeth healthy during the holidays. If you have any questions or if you’d like to end your child’s 2019 with a healthy smile, schedule a visit with our Park Slope or Williamsburg pediatric dentist today!