As your kids get older, they may pester you more for lollies, chocolate and fizzy drinks as treats. While you may think that the occasional sweet treat won't do any harm, the sugars and acids in these products can damage teeth, and you should take extra care when your child eats or drinks anything that isn't tooth friendly. How can you strike a balance between giving your child a treat and protecting their teeth?
Set Limits on Tooth Unfriendly Snacks
Your mouth and teeth can typically deal with the occasional sugar or acid attack; however, teeth may get overwhelmed if you allow your child to eat and drink sweet or acidic stuff regularly between meals. If your teeth are exposed to too many sugars and acids, they may develop problems such as decay.
It's best to limit how often and when you give you give children a sweet treat to minimise the times that their teeth have to combat sugars and acids. When you eat something sweet or acidic, your teeth take time to deal with the effects of these substances. Teeth can cope far better if they have to manage sugars and acids a few times a day rather than every few hours.
So, rather than doling out fizzy drinks and lollies as between meal snacks, you might want to try giving these treats with or immediately after a meal. This bundles the bad stuff up into the post-eating process, allowing your child's mouth to deal with tooth-unfriendly substances as it cleans itself up after a meal.
Pick and Choose Sweet Treats
The type of treat you give kids may also affect the health of their teeth. It's best to give kids treats that they can eat quickly in one sitting and that won't damage their teeth. For example, kids can wolf down a bar of chocolate or some jelly sweets fairly quickly; they can make a hard lolly or bag of boiled sweets last for hours.
If kids eat tooth unfriendly foods over a long period, their teeth have to deal with sugars and acids over and over again. Plus, hard or chewy sweets like toffees can also damage teeth, possible causing cracks, chips and fractures.
Encourage Kids to Protect Their Teeth After Eating Treats
You can give your child's teeth a helping hand after a sweet or acidic treat by having them rinse their mouth out with water. This helps flush sugars and acids out of the mouth and away from the teeth. If your child is old enough to chew gum, it may be worth allowing them to use a sugar-free gum after a tooth-unfriendly snack. The extra saliva that a gum produces also helps clean harmful substances off the teeth.
Be careful about getting kids to brush their teeth straight after a treat, especially if they've eaten or drunk something acidic like a fizzy or fruit drink. The acid from the treat weakens tooth enamel and immediate brushing may cause damage to the surface of the tooth. In these cases, it's best to wait 30 minutes or so before brushing to allow saliva to deal with the effects of the acid.