Maintaining good oral care during the holidays can be tough with the bombardment of sugary sweets all season. Counting down to Christmas with an advent calendar is a fun activity for your kids, but if they are filled with chocolate and sweets, it won’t be so great for their teeth. Dr. Jaleel, your Ottawa-Nepean dentist has come up with these simple sugar-free ideas to fill your countdown instead.
Holiday Activity Fun
Fill your child’s countdown with special moments that they will cherish all year round. For each day of the month come up with a fun holiday activity that you can do together as a family. Some ideas include: watching a holiday movie, going ice skating, building a snowman and looking at Christmas lights. Write down the activity on a slip of paper and tuck one note into each day of your advent calendar.
A Puzzling Treat
Give your child a fun challenge with a customized puzzle. Draw a picture or write a special message on a blank puzzle. Break the pieces apart and place one puzzle piece in each day of your advent calendar. Every day your child can add the pieces together until they have a completed puzzle revealing a special holiday message or fun activity to do together.
Find some simple trinkets to fill each day on your calendar instead of candy. The dollar store is a great place to find fun items without spending a lot. Some ideas include a box of crayons, hair clips, small cars and bouncing balls. Be sure to include a new toothbrush on one day to encourage good oral care during the holidays.
Nothing beats the gift of a good story, except maybe several good stories. Pick out a holiday-themed book for every day of your countdown. Wrap each book individually and number the packages for each day of the month. Have your child open a new book each night at bedtime and read it together.
Celebrating the holidays can still be joyous even without loads of candy and sweet treats. Get creative and come up with your own sugar-free countdown treats.
But if you want to indulge your children with some treats, here is what you can do:
When the holiday season comes around, there’s no need for kids with braces to miss out on the traditional treats. Some candies can damage braces, but there are plenty of safe and tasty snacks to satisfy young taste buds without interfering with orthodontia. In fact, when preparing fun holiday treats with your child, you can include numerous healthy options that build strong teeth at the same time.
Treats to Avoid
Candy canes are an extremely popular treat during the holidays. Used as Christmas tree ornaments, stocking stuffers or stirrers in a cup of hot chocolate on a snowy day, candy canes seem like they’re everywhere. Unfortunately, since candy canes are 100 percent sugar, they should be near the top of any list of the worst candy for teeth around the holidays. Dr. Jaleel also advises that children should avoid caramel, licorice, lollipops, bubblegum, popcorn, taffy, jelly beans and hard pretzels. Hard candies have their own way of damaging teeth. Although chewy candy nests on teeth, hard candy dissolves in your mouth over a slow period, allowing the bacteria access to more sugar. Another concern with hard candies is for those who can’t resist biting them: doing so can result in chipped or broken teeth.
One way to minimize your mouth’s exposure to holiday candies is by eating healthy snacks. Fresh fruits, such as strawberries and melons, are nutritious, healthy alternatives to candy or sugary desserts. Low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese, unbuttered popcorn and baked tortilla chips are excellent alternatives to fatty snacks and appetizers, along with raw veggies like carrots and celery.
Making it through the holidays without eating any type of sugary candy or treats at all is probably not a realistic expectation. The keys to maintaining proper oral health are consumption in moderation and regular brushing with a toothpaste to help strengthen enamel, reduce plaque and fight cavities.