Keeping your kids’ teeth clean and preventing cavities during the holidays can be a challenge. This time of year, children have more access to more candy, desserts, and sugary drinks. Further, your busy holiday schedule of family visits, work commitments, and events probably interrupts your own normal dental hygiene routine.
Eating sugary foods and neglecting oral hygiene routines can cause serious problems in a child’s mouth. Even children’s teeth are vulnerable to tooth decay, gum erosion, and cavities. These issues can cause pain, inflammation, infections, and more. It’s the responsibility of parents and caregivers to teach children proper dental hygiene methods.
Christmas is coming; take additional precautions to ensure your little ones’ smiles stay white.
Tips to Keep Kids’ Teeth Strong through the Holidays
Practicing smart dental hygiene and choosing the right food and drink options is especially important during the sugar-filled holidays. Allow your kids to enjoy some Christmas buffets and treats, but use discretion. Read these tips to protect teeth without avoiding the holiday fun.
Rinse After Drinking Soda
Between holiday parties at school and dinners at family members’ houses, your child will likely come across some soda this season. Although soft drinks may taste delicious, soda can damage overall oral health. The sugars in sodas and juices mix with naturally-occuring bacteria in the mouth. This interaction causes acid production, which destroys tooth enamel, stains teeth, and causes cavities.
While it’s best to discourage soda drinking until a much later age, if your kiddo has a pop, follow up each beverage with a water rinse. By rinsing their mouth with water, any lingering acid from the soda is washed away. You may be thinking, “Why can’t they just brush their teeth after drinking pop?” The reason is demineralized tooth enamel is extra sensitive after additional acid production. It’s best to rinse your mouth with water instead of brushing to avoid removing that precious enamel. Brush 20 minutes later.
Limit Sugary Gifts and Desserts
Sugary foods and drinks wreak havoc on teeth all year round. At holiday time, the opportunities for kids to have “treats” are more prevalent than ever. Here are a few suggestions to reduce sugar intake:
One trick is to substitute healthier options for dessert. Cheese, for example, is an awesome food for dental and bone health. It causes your mouth to produce saliva (which remineralizes tooth enamel). Serve a platter of cheese and fruit for dessert. You could also serve yogurt and other low-sugar dairy products.
Another trick for decreasing children’s sugar intake is to skip hard candies. It’s common for a dish of caramels or candy canes to sit on the coffee table during Christmastime. These little packets of sugar are awful for kids’ teeth because they linger in the mouth for long periods of time. Chewing on them can break teeth or damage gums. Instead, encourage older children to chew on sugarless gum and serve frozen mango slices and cut grapes to toddlers and elementary-age kids. Make sure all food size is age-appropriate to avoid choking hazards.
Also, ask your friends and family not to give your children candy or food. They’ll be eating plenty at various holiday parties and events; kids don’t need extra candy in or on their presents. Instead, suggest family members present a small toy or an experience. Do the same for Christmas morning; ask Santa to skip putting candy in stockings.
No Matter Where You Are, Brush!
We often travel more during the holidays. One night is dinner at your sister’s, the next it’s at the in-laws’. Since these visits often extend into the night, we sometimes skip the teeth brushing part of our nighttime routine. Consistent brushing is crucial for everyone’s dental health.
Ensure teeth get brushed throughout the holidays by packing a travel kit with toothpaste, brushes, floss, and mouthwash. Keep an extra travel toothbrush for yourself in a purse, briefcase, or in the car. Staying late at grandma’s house doesn’t mean kids get to skip brushing their teeth. Packing the right tools and encouraging other family members to keep up the routine (even when you’re not there) helps keep kids consistent.
To make sure children brush their teeth at home during the holidays, make it fun. Consider buying a Christmas toothbrush with favourite holiday characters or holiday colours. Incorporate brushing into a game, story, or reward a week’s worth of good oral hygiene with a small prize. Choose a song to play only during teeth brushing time. Making it a fun event to enjoy will encourage kids to embrace this twice-daily habit.
Don’t Use Teeth as Tools
December is the time for shelled nuts and candies in wrappers. Do your kids open nuts with their teeth? Or use their teeth to open bottles or wrappers? These are behaviours created out of convenience and from watching others model them. Everyone in the family should avoid opening items with their teeth, including wrapping paper and tape. Using your teeth as a tool can cause cracking, breakage, and gum injury.
When your kids are eating shelled nuts, teach them how to use a nutcracker. Show them how to effectively open wrappers and bottles with their hands or other kitchen tools. It’s sometimes exciting for wiggly baby teeth to fall out, but there’s no need to rush that process by cracking nuts with them.
Kids learn best by observing and doing. We often underestimate how much they see and learn. Go deeper than just saying, “soda is bad for your teeth;” explain what soda ingredients are bad and what they do to teeth. Use pictures from magazines and other sources to teach about teeth, tooth decay, cavities, and more. There are plenty of fun videos on YouTube that show kids how to brush teeth and keep it interesting.
Consider taking your family to a pre-holiday checkup with your dentist. Encourage children to ask questions about the cleaning process and different foods. Learning is the first step to empowering our kids with proper dental hygiene tools and methods. Show them it’s important by bringing them along to your appointment(s).
Lambton Family Dental is a family dental clinic that focuses on preventative dentistry and treatment. We provide cosmetic services, dental implants, dentures, and Invisalign in Sarnia. We’ll create a customized dental plan for each patient’s unique needs and preferences. Give us a call today to set up your consultation: (519) 344-5747.