Posted on 2nd December 2019
The festive season is an exciting time for children, but along with parties and presents usually comes copious amounts of lollies and sweet treats, which can play havoc on your child’s oral health.
Tooth decay isn’t something to be treated lightly; it is the SINGLE most common chronic childhood disease. It’s five times more common than asthma, four times more common than early-childhood obesity, and 20 times more common than diabetes.
Luckily, there are some easy ways to help your child take care of their teeth, without missing out on the fun of the festive season.
Chair of WA’s Oral Health Committee, Dr Fleur Creeper, shares her advice.
Have a treat day
Does your child get a lolly or sweet treat in every Christmas card they receive at school? Or a lollipop nearly every time they go to the shop during the festive season? Or do you have an advent calendar that is eagerly anticipated every morning?
They say, “everything in moderation”, but eating treats over one day is much better for kids’ teeth than grazing on sugar-laden lollies and treats over several days. This is because every time you eat sugary foods, plaque bacteria on the tooth convert the sugars into acids, which can result in dental caries or tooth decay. If you eat sweet treats in one sitting or on one day, then it limits the exposure of these acids to your teeth and give you mouth time to recover and rest. So perhaps pick a set day each week when the treats can be consumed – this makes it even more special and exciting!
Skip the sticky lollies
All lollies are not created equal – sticky lollies will stay on the teeth for longer. Chocolate is a better choice over lollies (darker chocolate preferably!) as it generally leaves less residue on the teeth and contains the protein casein, which creates a protective film over the tooth’s enamel surface.
Eat treats with main meals
Eating sugary treats after a meal instead of as a snack on its own can help to neutralise the mouth’s pH from acids from lollies, because more saliva is produced when you are eating a meal. Saliva helps to dilute and neutralise the acids in the mouth and helps to wash away the food particles left in the mouth.
Use a straw
If your child is drinking soft drinks or fruit juices at Christmas celebrations, give them a straw to use. It will help prevent the drink from coating their teeth. Water or plain milk is a better choice.
Have a drink of water
After eating their sweet treats, give children a glass of water to drink afterwards. Sipping the water will help dilute and neutralise the acid in their mouth.
Be the change
If your child receives a lolly or a chocolate in every Christmas card they get at school, why not look into non-sugary options? Children will love getting a Christmas stamp or sticker, and the great thing is, they are sugar free and last longer!
Remember good oral health
Brushing your child’s teeth twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste and flossing daily will help keep their smile happy and healthy. Good oral habits like brushing and flossing, which are established in childhood, are carried into adulthood and result in lifelong oral health.
Also, if you don’t already, book regular check-ups with your children; make doing so part of your New Year’s Resolution for 2020.
Dr Fleur Creeper’s top tips to keep your child’s smile healthy year-round: