It’s a custom we all grew up loving, the Easter basket goodies found in hidden spots of the backyard garden every year. Somehow, over the years we’ve made it seem perfectly normal to imagine a magical bunny leaving candies and chocolate eggs littered about. It’s quite amusing if you try to ascribe logic to it. Even our youngest children know that real eggs come from chickens, most definitely not bunnies. Nevertheless, it is fun, and aren’t the part of our celebratory tradition of what gives childhood and life in general moments of joy?
Unfortunately for our teeth, more specifically your children’s teeth, those jelly beans, peeps, caramel candies, and chocolate-filled Easter baskets are a slow assault on their dental health. So, what can a parent do to keep fun and tradition alive, while also protecting those happy healthy smiles? We have a list of suggestions for you, some are alternatives, and others merely tips to help ensure that those smiles remain healthy in spite of an Easter sugar siege.
1. Be Selective About the Types of Candies You Include in the Easter Basket
We won’t ask you to eschew sweets entirely for the holiday, but we will advise you to be selective. Sticky candies are among the worst offenders for teeth because they leave behind more than just sugar and bacteria, they leave behind parts of themselves. Sticky candies will get stuck in the grooves and the in-betweens of the molars providing fertile ground for the bacteria to feast throughout the day. Those bacteria secrete acids that attack the enamel of the teeth that can cause damage up until the time of your child’s next brushing routine.
Furthermore, sour candies are acid offenders in the extreme. Sour candy is by its processed nature is acidic. This causes it to be a double whammy on the enamel of teeth. Candies that are to be slowly consumed over a period of time such as suckers are another to be wary of. We’ve shared in previous posts about the negative effects grazing can have on the teeth because the constant assault over an extended period of time doesn’t allow the saliva to work its defensive magic before the teeth are sieged again.
At this point, you may be wondering if there are any candies or goodies that we do approve of for Easter. The truth is, as pediatric dentists we are so very familiar with the damage and even pain that accompany habitual eating of sweets that it’s hard not to say, “omit it all entirely!”
That being said, we are parents, and we realize an Easter basket without any candy at all is hardly realistic. So, we’ll share our secret: Little chocolate bunnies or eggs that are hollow, and easily chewed. Those are the best in a group of delicious “bad”-ness. Little is a subjective term here; some hollow chocolates are quite large. Look for the smallest ones that you can find.
2. Portion Control and Moderation
Here’s your opportunity to draw out the fun of the Easter basket. Don’t set it up for your kids to eat everything in their basket in one day. Instead control the portion and start setting the example or habit of indulging in moderation. Let your child pick one or two for the day, and then do the same the following days until the Easter basket is empty. This will be fun for your kids as they’ll have a treat for a few days in a row instead of just one and will help them develop the habit of moderation instead of bingeing.
3. Incorporate Other Things into the Easter Basket
We suggest that you bring in other items to the hunt that will end up in the Easter Basket. Books are a favorite item, a small toy, stickers, or crayons. Dare we event suggest it? A new toothbrush and toothpaste! There’s no rule for an Easter egg hunt that says everything must be candy or chocolate.
4. Convert Your Kids to Dark Chocolate Connoisseurs
When it comes to your teeth, dark chocolate is the better option among chocolates for a few interesting reasons: polyphenols, flavonoids, and tannins. Cocoa beans are very rich in all three of these antioxidants. Polyphenols can help neutralize some of the microorganisms that are responsible for bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay. Flavonoids can help to slow tooth decay, and tannins can help reduce how much bacteria can stick to your teeth. Milk chocolate does have these antioxidants as well but on a much lower scale. The darker your chocolate the more antioxidants and the better for your teeth.
5. Drink Water with Fluoride
If your kids are going to indulge, try accompanying those indulgences with fluoride water instead of a juice or soda. Fluoride is a strong defender of dental health. Studies show that fluoride in community water systems prevents at least 25 percent of tooth decay in children and adults, even in an era with the widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste. So, while any water is better than juice or soda, fluoride water from the tap is the best.
Don’t give up on the morning and evening brushing and flossing routines, but consider adding in a brushing session after the Easter Egg Hunt! If you include a new toothbrush and/or toothpaste in the Easter basket, brushing after some Easter basket sweets would be easily accomplished. All kids like to try out their new stuff.
7. Schedule a Cleaning at Your Pediatric Dentist
It’s always a good idea after a season of indulgence to schedule a dentist checkup. We’re offering $25 gift cards for our patients who have an appointment for a cleaning and checkup at any of our four locations through to April 15. Give us a call and come see us!