Easter is just around the corner, meaning now is a great time to think about candy alternatives for your little one’s plastic eggs and Easter baskets. Much of this holiday is focused on sugar, but that does not mean you have to fall into the trap of loading up on chocolates, jellybeans, and marshmallow peeps. However, if you want to indulge in some of those popular seasonal treats, there are oral health tips to help you and your child’s teeth stay healthy while doing just that.
There are many candy alternatives when shopping for items to fill their Easter Eggs with. With warmer weather approaching, try to look for things that your child will be excited to play with outdoors. This keeps their imagination going while saving their teeth from being coated in sugar.
Skip filling your child’s Easter eggs with jelly beans, gummy snacks, and chocolates and swap for items like:
- Small figurines
- Bounce balls
- Small toy cars
- Color bath drops
- Miniature bubbles
- Hair bows or ties
- Self-ink stamps or tattoos
- Character themed band-aids
Of course, depending on your child’s age, you want to look for age-appropriate items that will not be a choking hazard.
If you want to indulge in Easter-themed candy this season, you can do it smartly by following these oral health recommendations:
- Limit the sticky, gummy candies (e.g., jelly beans, marshmallow peeps, starbursts, and sour patch kids) and replace them with dark chocolates.
Polyphenols, which are compounds found in plants, are also present in cocoa - the main ingredient of dark chocolate. Research has shown that polyphenols help reduce biofilm formation and the production of acid associated with cavity-causing bacteria.
- Designate a specific time of day for Easter treats.
Rather than snacking on Easter candy throughout the entire day, designate a time that allows your child to enjoy their treat without increasing their chances for tooth decay. Immediately following meal times is an excellent option for a special treat because of salivary stimulation. When sugar is combined with oral bacteria, an acid is produced. If this frequently occurs throughout the day, the mouth never has time to recover from an acidic environment; therefore, the risk for cavities increases.
- Drink more water
Drinking more water helps neutralize acids from sugar intake. This is also a natural way of cleaning the teeth. Water that contains fluoride also provides an extra barrier for enamel protection.
- Avoid brushing immediately after eating sugar.
According to the American Dental Association, it is best to wait 30 - 60 minutes to brush after eating foods that are high in sugar or citrus. Rinse with water or a mouth rinse instead.
- Implement gumline brushing and c-shaped flossing techniques.
Have you ever heard of the phrase practice makes perfect? Well, what if you are practicing the wrong way? I like to tweak this phrase by saying “perfect practice makes perfect.” You can brush your teeth all day and still miss the most important areas, such as the gumlines. Dental plaque most frequently adheres at the gum line and between the teeth. Brush towards the gums at a 45-degree angle and hug the floss against the tooth to effectively remove that sticky plaque that can cause dental cavities. Be sure to brush twice a day and floss each night.
- Visit your dental provider at least every six months.
Routine dental cleanings and exams help prevent big dental problems, along with annual dental x-rays to help see the areas in the mouth that cannot be seen clinically. Be sure to talk with your dental provider to stay on a consistent recall schedule that best fits your family’s oral health needs.
During this holiday season, sugar does not have to be avoided altogether. Moderation is a commonly used word when providing dietary counseling recommendations in dentistry. If you are mindful of snacking frequencies and carefully choose the types of snacks that are less harmful to the teeth (such as dark chocolates over sticky caramels), then this can be incredibly helpful in preventing cavities and maintaining healthy gums.
I hope this article helps you hop into this season of life feeling confident in you and your family’s oral health success!
About the Author:
Written by: Kristen Cockrell, RDH, MSDH
Kristen is a Pediatric Registered Dental Hygienist with a passion for preventive dentistry and oral health education. In addition to working full-time as a hygienist and mother to two young boys, Kristen is an oral health expert with Grin Natural.
Photo credits to our beautiful Grin mama @thiswildtribeofmine