by Jenna Simmons, Alberta Health Services
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. except for teeth. Maintaining proper oral hygiene may be difficult during the holidays because of the abundance of sugary treats at various gatherings. It is important to remember that holiday festivities do not have to revolve around sugary treats.
Families can share other activities such as holiday movies, building snowmen, skiing, skating, tobogganing and looking at Christmas lights to name a few. While these activities can be fun, it is also important to take precautions as well. Make sure that your children are wearing appropriate sporting equipment during activities that require them. By doing this, you will prevent chipping, cracking or breaking teeth.
Advent calendars are a fun holiday tradition but are usually full of sugary treats. The countdown to Christmas can still happen despite the commercial calendars available. Parents can assemble a calendar using a Christmas puzzle and dividing the pieces up, giving a few each day until the puzzle is completed on December 24th. Home made advent calendars can also be constructed by using small toys purchased from the dollar store. Children will enjoy opening one toy each day. Books, sugar-free gum, hair clips, cars and stuffed toys are all other ideas that can prevent tooth decay but still engage children in seasonal activities. All you need is a little creativity and perhaps Pinterest!
Although during the holidays it is inevitable that sugar will be consumed at some point, it is important to ensure oral hygiene is being practiced daily. Toothbrushes floss and toothpastes can be great stocking stuffers and help children not only become excited but also educated in the use of their new oral hygiene products. As well, best practice is brushing two minutes two times daily, preferably at night and in the morning. In addition to brushing, flossing is as equally important. Brushing and flossing is critical because it is important to remove food debris and plaque from the teeth. Also, when consuming sugar it is important to understand that certain sugary foods, although not the best, are better than others. Sugars such as hot chocolate, apple ciders and juice are better because they do not get stuck in the pits and fissures of the teeth. Foods such as caramel, cookies, and gummy candies are worse choices because they get stuck to in the molars and remain there until the teeth are adequately brushed. Eating snacks in one sitting is better than grazing throughout the day. Paring sugary foods with a buffer food, such as nuts and hard cheese, helps bring the saliva down from an acidic to a neutral level so that decay is not as likely.
Always remember that it is important to visit your dentist on a regular basis for check ups and cleanings. Alberta Health Services also offers a preschool fluoride varnish program for eligible candidates. Visit or call your local public health unit for more information. Merry Christmas and may your teeth be healthy into the New Year!
Jenna Simmons is a dental hygienist with Alberta Health Services Community Health. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].