What should you give your child instead of candy?
On its own, candy doesn’t cause cavities, but it does create conditions for bacteria to flourish, which is what makes it such a big problem for teeth. The human mouth has over 1 million bacteria living in it, most of which are beneficial for maintaining a healthy oral ecosystem. But when your child eats candy, harmful mouth bacteria feed off of the sugar. These destructive bacteria then create an acid that wears away tooth enamel and increases the risk of decay and cavities.
Saliva can neutralize acid in the mouth but only if the amount of sugars consumed isn’t excessive. That’s why it’s important to limit your child’s sugar intake and encourage them to maintain a regular oral hygiene routine.
What other sweets are a potential problem?
Most sugary sweets aren’t good for teeth, but some candies do more damage than others. As a rule of thumb, the stickier the sweet is, the more problematic it can be for your teeth. Sticky candy stays on the tooth surface longer and can easily get caught in between teeth. Because saliva has a hard time washing the stickiness away, these sweets put your child at a higher risk of developing tooth decay. In addition to sticky candies, you should also stay away from hard candies like lollipops and marzipans.
The problem with hard candies is that they tend to stay in the mouth for long periods of time. This gives the sweet treat plenty of time to contact your little one’s tooth surface. Most adults don’t know this, but sour candies are normally very acidic, meaning they can easily damage and weaken the outer layer of the teeth, making your child particularly vulnerable to cavities.
“Sweet” Alternatives to Your Kids’ Sugary Treats
You’ll be happy to know that there are some tasty, tooth-friendly options for your child to eat. You just need to know where to look. To help make your search a little easier, here are 5 alternatives to candy your child may love.
1. Fresh Fruit
Kids love finger food, and few things are better for your teeth than fresh fruit; it’s colorful, tasty, packed with vitamins and minerals, and full of fiber. Crunchy and crisp fruits like apples won’t only keep the doctor away, but they will also scrub plaque off of teeth and keep cavities at bay.
2. Leafy Greens
Spinach, lettuce, and other leafy greens contain folic acid, which is well known for making gums more resilient to dental plaque and anaerobic bacteria, two of the biggest causes of tooth decay and cavities. So encourage your child to eat that last piece of broccoli or melt a little bit of butter and sprinkle some salt on top to make the greens a little bit more appealing. Your little one’s oral health will be all the better for it.
3. Milk, Cheese, and Yogurt
The calcium, casein, and phosphates in milk and other dairy products can help replenish minerals your child’s teeth might have lost due to other foods. Milk, in particular, can reduce the risk of developing cavities. It’s one of the few drinks that does contain sugar but doesn’t harm your child’s oral health.
Whether your child likes them hard-boiled or sunny side up, eggs are a great source of calcium, vitamin D, and protein, which are all important nutrients for good oral health. Your child needs a healthy dose of vitamin D to absorb calcium, which in turn strengthens bones and teeth. As a bonus, the protein in eggs comes without the amount of fat found in meat and works even better at keeping the teeth and jawbone strong.
5. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds provide plenty of proteins and healthy fats that repel the acids responsible for harming tooth enamel. Acidic foods and beverages are known for removing tooth enamel. Adding nuts and seeds to your child’s diet can help counteract this effect.
Pediatric Smile Care You Can Trust
It’s not easy to keep children away from candies. Stocking your pantry and fridge with these safe choices can make candies less accessible for your little one. If your child is a little more fond of sugary items than most, encourage them to be more thorough and consistent with their oral hygiene routine.
Aside from brushing and flossing, you should also schedule regular teeth cleanings and oral checkups with a pediatric dentist. It’s during these appointments that your child’s dentist can identify any potential problems and offer helpful insights on what tweaks your little one can make to their oral hygiene routine to give them the best dental health possible.
For smile care you can trust, we hope you’ll choose We Make Kids Smile, a team of pediatric dentists who provide dental care in Southern Maryland.