The winter holiday season is filled with sweets and foods that are so tasty but can wreak havoc on your teeth. It’s impossible to keep children away from every Christmas cookie and holiday candy. However, there are some ways to minimize the risk of developing cavities without spoiling Christmas.
Blackstone Family Dentistry is here to help you find the right balance of protecting your children’s teeth without turning you into the Grinch this holiday season.
Why sweets and teeth don’t get along
Teeth start to decay when the bacteria that naturally live in your mouth starts turning sugars and carbohydrates into acids. The acid eats away at the enamel on the surface of your teeth, which leads to cavities.
A significant cause of tooth decay is eating sugary, sticky, foods, and drinking sugary beverages. The more sugar and carbohydrates you eat, the more acid the bacteria in your mouth can produce, putting you at higher risk for cavities and plaque build-up.
Snacking throughout the day can also increase your risk of tooth decay and other oral issues. It exposes your teeth to the harmful acids for an extended period.
Enjoy treats more safely
As with everything in life, moderation is the key. It’s probably impossible (and not fun) to keep children from enjoying holiday cookies, candies, and other sweets. However, eating carb-rich and sugary foods as part of a healthy, balanced diet will significantly reduce the negative impact on their oral health. It’s better to help children choose treats wisely and not overindulge than to try to eliminate treats all-together.
Choose less harmful treats
Some candies are more damaging to your teeth than others. Sticky treats are particularly hazardous because bits of candy and sugar tend to “stick around” in your mouth long after you’re finished eating it. Even dried fruit falls into this category of unhealthy treats because they are sticky and have a lot of sugar (even if it’s natural sugar).
Lollipops, candy canes, and other hard candies are also more harmful than other treats because they take a long time to eat. The longer you suck on or lick a candy, the more you expose your teeth to the sugars, increasing the chances of tooth decay.
Help your children choose seasonal treats that are more teeth-friendly! Gingerbread tends to have less sugar than other cookies and baked goods, making it a healthier option all-around. Try baking and decorating your own gingerbread cookies if you want to control how much sugar is in the recipe.
Consider filling the stockings with dark chocolate instead of other candies this Christmas. New studies suggest that dark chocolate may help fight cavities, plaque, and tooth decay! (Of course, you don’t want to confuse dark chocolate with sugar-loaded milk chocolate.)
The healthiest dark chocolates are organic and have less than 6-8 grams of sugar per serving. Raw chocolate is the ideal choice because it is less processed, usually has the least amount of sugar, and contains more antioxidants.
Offer lightly sweetened peppermint tea as an alternative to sugary drinks like eggnog, hot chocolate, and sodas. Peppermint is a seasonal favorite, and everyone will enjoy curling up by a warm fire with a soothing cup of hot tea.
Surprisingly, cheese is a tooth-healthy snack option! Cheese can raise the pH level in your mouth and reduce your risk of cavities. Cheese is also high in calcium and protein that keep you feeling full longer and are excellent for tooth and bone health. Consider setting out a festive cheese platter instead of a plate of cookies this Christmas. You can even use cookie cutters to cut the cheese into festive shapes!
Brush after you eat
Encouraging kids to brush their teeth after they eat and minimizing snacking between meals can go a long way to prevent tooth decay. Snacking on treats feeds the bacteria in your mouth and lets the acid do its damage throughout the day. Brushing helps reduce the amount of acid in your mouth and keeps your teeth clean.
If you or your children can’t brush your teeth after eating, rinse your mouth out with water to help clean sugar and food particles off your teeth. Doing this reduces the amount of sugars and carbohydrates the bacteria can turn into harmful acid.
Give the gift of a healthy smile
Consider tucking some fun gifts under the tree that will help improve your children’s oral health. Young children will enjoy a toothbrush with their favorite cartoon character or superhero on it. Older children might benefit from an electric toothbrush or teeth-whitening services.
The New Year is an excellent time to start new habits that will help keep your teeth healthy and strong. Challenge your whole family to set a New Year’s Resolution goal that will improve everyone’s oral health habits. Whether it’s taking time to floss regularly, your brushing teeth at least twice a day, or scheduling regular cleanings, the new year is a perfect time to start new things.
Contact Blackstone Family Dentistry to schedule regular cleanings, a checkup, or learn more about our services. We hope you have a safe, happy, teeth-friendly holiday season!