Hanukkah is underway, Christmas is fast approaching and before you know it, we’ll be ringing in 2018. This time of year means twinkling lights, candles aglow, festive tunes, gifts, enjoying the company of loved ones and a general feeling of goodwill but it also means sugar, sugar and more sugar! There’s nothing the mouth monsters love more than holiday sweets. Dr. Paddy and the Kids Mile High team are all well aware that patients aren’t going to follow up a night of caroling with hot carrot juice instead of hot chocolate and we wouldn’t expect little ones to give up all of their favorite treats. However, a few small tweaks can really go a long way in preventing cavities. Here are our tips for parents on how to keep your kids teeth healthy during the holidays.
- Pay Special Attention to Brushing and Flossing: So, you got home late from a family gathering. It would be so easy to let the kiddos skip their oral hygiene routine for the night and fall into bed. Try your very best to avoid this and spend the few extra minutes making sure their teeth are brushed and flossed. As always, have your kids brush twice a day (once in the morning and once at bedtime) with a fluoride toothpaste and floss at night. You may even want to follow up with a cavity-fighting mouthwash. If you’re unsure of what to use, ask us, and we’ll point you in the right direction. During the holidays, if your kids are really getting down with the sweets, it’s a good idea to throw in an extra brushing session or at least have them rinse their mouth out really well with water after eating or drinking something high in sugar.
- Moderation is Key: We know it’s easier said than done but sticking with a balanced, nutritious diet during all of the celebrations is important. Munching on desserts and sipping on sweet drinks is best done in moderation. Plus, it will make them taste all that much better knowing it’s a special occasion. Limiting treats at the holidays for kids really starts at home. Keep your own pantry stocked with healthy essentials and let them get their treat fix when you’re out and about so that it’s not a continuous cycle of sugar. If there’s a particularly sugar-fueled event on the calendar, it could be helpful to be extra careful about what your kids eat leading up to it.
- Don’t Eat or Drink too Slowly: There are a lot of benefits of eating slowly and savoring your meals but when it comes to kids and candy, soda and all of the big cavity offenders, slow isn’t better. The bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars and starches and as they do, they release acids that mix with spit and food debris and form plaque. When it isn’t brushed away, the acids start to damage the enamel, eventually leading to cavities. After eating or drinking, the bad acids hang out for about a half hour and with each sip or bite, the clock starts over. So, slowly sipping on hot chocolate over the course of an hour or snacking on treats throughout the day just means little teeth are exposed to acids for much longer. Sugar here and there is fine but constantly bathing the teeth in it isn’t. Instead, make sure your kids are drinking sugary drinks or eating sugary snacks at a normal pace and in one sitting.
- Make Some Healthy Swaps Where You Can: Some of the worst holiday treats for your kids can easily receive a healthy makeover and still taste fantastic. Using fresh fruit in certain cakes, for example, can take the place of some of the refined sugar while offering a hint of sweetness. Making hot chocolate that’s heavy on the milk and lighter on the chocolate, will give teeth a boost of calcium and milk has been shown to decrease the acid levels in plaque.
- Give the Kids a Few Tooth-Friendly Holiday Gifts: Only putting dental floss and fresh vegetables under the tree probably won’t go over that well but that doesn’t mean a few gifts can’t be related to oral health. Sugarless gum with xylitol is excellent for killing sugar bugs and it’s the perfect stocking stuffer or small, add-on Hanukah gift. You can also try exceptionally tasty toothpaste along with an electric toothbrush for older kids or a super fun, colorful toothbrush for younger ones.
- Hydrate with Water: Water is up there on the list of things that teeth love. It keeps spit flowing and spit neutralizes those plaque acids. Plus, it gives teeth a bath, washing away food debris and bacteria. Have the kids drink water throughout the day and balance out any other beverages with a glass of H20. Fill up your water bottle before heading out to a party or a visit with Santa.
- Keep Up With Dental Exams and Cleanings: We know it gets really busy around the holidays and going to the dentist probably falls lower on the to-do list than say, eating a ton of Christmas cookies. However, your child’s checkups and cleanings are the cornerstones of their preventative care. We’re able to get rid of the hardened plaque that can’t be eliminated with brushing and flossing at home, make sure teeth and gums are in top-notch shape and, if problems do arise, we can catch them early while treatment is less invasive. Consider it your gift to your little one’s smile!
Keeping your child’s teeth healthy during Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s doesn’t have to turn into a seasonal full-time job. Just be mindful of their sugar intake and follow the same guidelines as you do the rest of the year. As long as your child is brushing and flossing, going for their regular checkups and cleanings and not eating an all candy cane diet, there’s no need to worry. If you have questions or concerns or want to start your child’s 2018 off with a bright smile under the care of a Denver pediatric dentist, contact us.
Happy holidays from Kids Mile High Pediatric Dentistry!