The holiday season is quickly approaching. Of course, that means family fun, delicious meals, candles and lights galore, festive music and an abundance of cheer. However, it also means lots and lots of sugar! Unfortunately, the bacteria in the mouth love to snack on sweets and carbohydrates and when they do, they release acids that attack the tooth’s enamel, which can eventually lead to cavities. That’s why the holidays are the sugar bugs’ favorite time of year!
We’d never ask the patients at our Naperville pediatric dental office to give up their favorite seasonal treats but there are things that parents can do that will go a long way in keeping kids’ teeth healthy during the holiday season.
1. Make Brushing and Flossing a Top Priority
Ensuring kids brush thoroughly for two minutes at least twice a day – once in the morning and once before bed – and floss once daily is the real secret of how to keep your kids’ teeth healthy during the holidays. Use an age-appropriate amount of fluoride toothpaste (a smear for tots under the age of three and a pea-sized amount for little ones ages three through six). Be sure to help with brushing until around the age of six and then continue to supervise until you know they’re brushing properly.
You might also want to add a cavity-fighting mouthwash to the mix for older school-aged kids. If you don’t know which products to use, our Naperville pediatric dentists are always happy to help! For the days when your kiddo eats a ton of sweets or they have sticky foods, adding an extra brushing session could be a good move. No matter how tempting it is to just let them go straight to bed after a long day or late night celebrating, try your best to have them stick to their oral hygiene routine.
2. Keep Up With Visits to Your Pediatric Dentist
Dental appointments can fall to the wayside during the holidays but it’s important to stay on track with checkups and cleanings. These visits are the keys to kids’ healthy teeth and the foundation of preventative care. We assess their development, get rid of hardened plaque that can’t be brushed or flossed away at home, evaluate their teeth and gums and if issues arise, we treat them in their earliest stages while it’s less invasive. If you know your holidays are going to be especially jam-packed with activities, plan ahead and get checkups out of the way before the season kicks off or schedule your little one’s next appointment for right after.
3. Indulge in Moderation
We know, we know, limiting treats at the holidays can be hard and it might make you feel like a Scrooge but your child’s smile will thank you! It’s not about banning all sugar but moderation is important and it makes the sweets kids do have all the more special. The easiest way to do this is to make your house a healthy zone. Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy and lean protein. When kids are home, aim to have well-balanced, nutritious meals and snacks and save the splurges for when you’re out on the town or at celebrations. If there are particularly treat-heavy events, just try to limit junk food more before and after to balance things out.
4. Try to Avoid Grazing
Mindful eating and slowly savoring those cookies or hot chocolate sounds great in theory but it’s actually worse for the teeth. Those acids we talked about earlier do their damage for about a half hour after each sip of a drink or bite of food. So, grazing all day long or sipping on a drink for hours just keeps starting the clock over again, which does more damage to the teeth. It’s better to just eat the candy or drink the cider in one sitting. If your child is having something acidic, serve it with a meal to neutralize the acid and maintain healthy teeth for the holidays.
5. Make Healthy Swaps Here and There
We wouldn’t advise swapping out that gingerbread for a head of lettuce but some of the worst holiday treats for your kids can easily be tweaked to make them healthier for their teeth and they’ll still taste awesome. For example, add more milk and less chocolate to hot chocolate or enjoy some baked apples sprinkled with cinnamon one evening instead of a full-on pie. There are tons of recipes out there that will help you give your favorite holiday desserts a healthier makeover.
6. Give a Few Tooth-Friendly Holiday Gifts
There are plenty of tooth-friendly holiday gifts that promote kids’ healthy teeth that would make a nice stocking stuffer or little extra Hanukkah present. Think bright, kid-friendly flossers, super delicious toothpaste, fun, colorful toothbrushes with kids’ favorite characters or even a cool electric toothbrush for an older child.
7. Drink Lots of Water
Another really important thing that should be mentioned on any list of how to keep your kids’ teeth healthy during the holidays is to have them drink lots of water. It’s a tooth’s best friend because it encourages the flow of saliva, neutralizes plaque acids and washes away bacteria and food debris. The occasional festive beverage is okay but make water the drink of choice for the majority of the time. As a bonus, your little one will be well hydrated!
As long as children brush and floss like champs, you’re mindful of their sugar intake when you’re not busy celebrating and they go for regular cleanings and checkups, you don’t need to stress too much about keeping kids’ teeth healthy during the holiday season. With a bit of extra attention, their smile will make it through the festivities unscathed. To start 2019 off right with a bright grin and a fun, friendly Naperville pediatric dentist, book a visit at Innovative Pediatric Dentistry!