All kids have a sweet tooth, and for parents it can often be a war of attrition to strike that ideal balance between goodies and good food. Also, many kids put together impressive caches of candy on Halloween, and it is up to the parents to worry about how to dole it out over the coming weeks or months. And candy is ever-present in many other holidays as well (I’m looking at you, Easter). To this end, parents need to worry about how to combat the effects of mass amounts of sugar on their children’s teeth.
With that in mind, here are some tips approved by the American Dental Association designed to help parents ensure good oral health for the kids even with candy in the picture.
Eat holiday candy during meals
Rather than dish out holiday candy at random times during the day, it’s best to have kids eat these sugary items during regular meal times. That’s because saliva output increases during meals, which helps to clean out bits of food as well as stop mouth bacteria from multiplying.
Curb the hard candy
Whenever possible, parents should prohibit as much hard candy as possible. That’s because it isn’t just sugar that leads to tooth decay; the length of time a piece of candy is in the mouth also contributes to tooth problems. On the same note, it’s also a good idea to cut down on as much sticky candies as possible. Remnants of gummy bears and tootsie rolls stick to the teeth and are not easily washed away by saliva.
Drink more water
When it is candy time, it’s crucial that kids drink healthy amounts of water with high fluoride content on a consistent basis. Tap water should suffice, but those parents who opt to give their kids bottled water should ensure it contains adequate fluoride. It’s also a good idea to stay away from sodas, sports drinks and flavored waters altogether.
It’s important to offset the kids’ sugar binge with healthy meals. That means forgoing fast food and concentrating on home-cooked meals heavy on fruits and vegetables. Maintaining a healthy balance regarding the types of foods kids eat ensures they can enjoy their candy without negative health consequences.
Encourage gum chewing
It’s all about generating healthy, teeth-cleaning saliva. And while saliva is generated at meal times, chewing sugarless gum for up to 20 minutes after meals also generates a good amount of the decay-fighting substance. Of course it’s vital to choose sugarless gum with the American Dental Association seal of approval.
Maintain good oral health
Brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste is important year round, but it is especially important when you factor candy into the mix. Also, brushes need to be replaced every three months or when the bristles become frayed. On that note, it is also crucial to floss daily in order remove plaque, clear bits of food from between the teeth, and to promote healthy gums.
These are just some of the things parents can do to stave off mouth problems caused by excess candy intake. By following an oral health regimen consistent with ADA recommendations, parents can ensure their children enjoy the occasional sweet while keeping tooth problems to a minimum. For more information on proper oral health for kids, visit an American Dental Association-approved dentist.
Jessie Flesner is a freelance writer in New Albany, Indiana. She often writes about the dental industry for PDental Inc.