December is finally here, and the holiday season is right around the corner. While the holidays are typically filled with family fun and beautiful lights, they’re also often filled with a lot of sugar. From chocolate gelt and sufganiyot to chocolate Santas and candy canes, many kids this season will be putting their teeth through the wringer.
To help you keep your child’s teeth safe from the bacteria that could hurt their enamel, here’s what you need to know about the dangers of sweets and what you can do to help keep your child’s teeth happy and healthy.
Why is sugar so bad for your child’s teeth?
It’s good to know the reason why sugar is so bad for both your child’s teeth and your own to get a better understanding of how cavities form. When you eat sugar and carbohydrates, the residue of those foods are left on your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth love sugar and carbohydrates and snack on this residue. Unfortunately, when they do, these bacteria release acids on the surface of your teeth. These acids attack your tooth’s enamel, the protective coating on the tooth. Over time, your enamel wears down, and a cavity forms. Left untreated, cavities can worsen and cause pain and difficulty eating.
It’s important for your child to visit their local pediatric dentist at least once every six months to help make sure their teeth are in good health. Your local pediatric dentist will examine your child’s teeth, clean away any tartar that may have built-up, check for signs of gum disease, and more.
How to protect your child’s dental health during the holidays
While it may be easier to reduce your child’s sugar intake during the rest of the year, it can be tricky to monitor how much sugar they’re eating during the holidays. Your child may be eating candy at a school holiday party, at their grandparents’ house, and at home. Many parents and family members give candy as gifts to kids, too.
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can keep your child’s teeth protected without ruining the holiday fun:
- Keep them on their schedule: The CDC recommends that kids brush their teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste. During the chaos of the holiday season, make sure your child stays on their schedule and is still brushing their teeth in the morning and at night. Consider keeping a travel toothbrush on hand, too, so you’ll be prepared should any plans change.
- Avoid hard candies: Many parents already feel unsure about letting their kids have hard candies because they can be a choking hazard. However, if you needed another reason to avoid them, hard candies are actually worse for your child’s teeth compared to other sweets like chocolate. Chocolate can usually be eaten quickly enough, leaving little residue on the teeth. Hard candy lingers in the mouth and takes a while to wear down, essentially bathing your child’s teeth in sugar. Try to limit how many candy canes your child is eating throughout the day to help protect their teeth.
- Don’t forget about sugary drinks: Hot chocolate and eggnog are commonly enjoyed during the holiday season. It’s important not to forget that, on top of holiday candy, your child may be drinking some of these beverages, too. Consider setting a limit on the number of candies your child can eat during a day and counting a sugary drink as one of those candies. This will help to limit the amount of sugar your child is consuming during the holiday season.
- Opt for healthier holiday cookies: Sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies are family favorites when it comes to baking for the holidays, but there are healthier options. Gingerbread, almond, and oatmeal cookies all have lower sugar content than other types of cookies and you can swap out certain ingredients for healthier choices. For instance, adding pumpkin to gingerbread cookies increases their fiber content, which is good for your digestive system.
One of the best ways to protect your child’s oral health during the holiday season is to consult with your local pediatric dentist. Looking for kids dentists in South Riding VA? Smilez Pediatric Dental Group has the friendly, local pediatric dentists you’re looking for. For more information on our family dentistry services or to schedule a dental exam with us, contact Smilez Pediatric Dental Group today.