Most kids absolutely go wild for candy. Unfortunately, so do the plaque-causing bacteria that lurk in their mouths! These bacteria love to eat simple sugars, and many candies sold to children are nothing but slightly flavored sugar. Keeping your child's teeth in good condition requires minimizing the dangers presented by sugary candies. Here are some tips to help keep your child's teeth safe from the damaging effects of candy.
Teach Your Child to Avoid Snacking on Candy During the Day
The main problem with candy is that it's ubiquitous—teachers often give candy to students as a reward for performing well on a test or doing their homework. It's also common for coaches to give kids candy as a post-game reward. Candy's prevalence during the day is a problem because your kids aren't able to brush their teeth at school. Instead, they have to wait until they get home, by which time all the sugar contained in candy has been feeding the bacteria that causes tooth decay.
A good solution is to offer a candy trade-in program to your kids. When they're rewarded with candy at school or in an after-school program, allow them to bring the candy home and trade it in for an alternative candy that they love. This teaches your child about delaying gratification and not eating candy just because it's there. It also moves your child's candy consumption closer to the time that they brush their teeth, which helps prevent tooth decay.
Avoid Sour Candy and Sticky Candy, Both of Which Are Terrible for Teeth
Sour candy is one of the worst types of candy your child can eat, since it presents a double threat to teeth. The sourness in sour candy comes from acidic food additives such as citric acid. Not only does the sugar in sour candy feed decay-causing bacteria, but the acidity of sour candy can slowly wear away the enamel in your child's teeth.
Sticky candy like taffy or caramel and candy that contains gelatin such as gummy worms or candy corn are also poor choices for your child's dental health. Saliva plays an important role in maintaining dental health, as it washes away bits of food that remain after a meal. However, sticky candy is not easily washed away by saliva. This causes it to remain in the mouth for a longer period of time, contributing to tooth decay. It can also become stuck in-between your child's teeth, where it can be difficult to remove even with a toothbrush.
While no candy is good for your child's dental health, you should guide your child towards making healthier candy choices. Any candy that is eaten quickly with little residue left behind, such as small chocolates, are a better choice than sour candy or sticky candy.
Make Sure Your Child Drinks Plenty of Water After Eating Candy
Whenever children can't brush their teeth after eating candy, they should at least drink plenty of water afterward. The water helps to wash away some of the sugar left behind in your child's mouth after eating candy. While not a substitute for brushing, it can prevent some of the tooth decay caused by candy.
With some care and guidance, you can prevent quite a bit of the damage that candy can cause to your child's teeth. Ideally, candy should only be eaten right before your child brushes his or her teeth. Your child should also avoid candy that is particularly damaging to teeth, such as sour candy. For added protection, make sure you schedule regular cleanings with a dentist at a pediatric dental clinic to keep your child's teeth healthy and catch any signs of decay as soon as possible.