Valentine’s Day is a holiday that comes every February 14th and it’s traditionally all about love. For kids, this love is usually expressed in the form of treats. Most kids exchange Valentine’s Day candy or sweets in a social setting around this time of year – such as at school, church, or even at home.
Why not change the narrative on Valentine’s Day for your kids? With this holiday just around the corner, use these kids’ dental tips to teach your children more about their food choices and how those can affect their teeth. Finally, we will also give you some Valentine’s Day treat ideas on what to avoid and what to choose instead.
Explain Cavities to Kids this Valentine’s Day
If your child is looking forward to receiving the candy on Valentine’s Day, be sure they understand the importance of brushing the morning and evening of that day to keep their teeth strong and healthy.
Kids can develop healthy oral hygiene habits most effectively when they understand the importance of the proactive decision to take care of their teeth. In order for children to care about proper brushing and flossing, they need to first understand what a cavity is and how one develops. Dr. Adam Silevitch, DMD, who is an attending pediatric dentist at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia, explains in an article how he teaches kids about cavities using the analogy of a white apple:
“When we ‘do a filling,’ or ‘fix a tooth,’ we are removing the rotten part of the tooth of a bruised apple. A cavity is like the brown part of an apple, and underneath the brown apple area is healthy until we see a healthy tooth. We then put a hard material in to make that tooth strong again.”
Set a Good Example for Your Kids to Follow
Adults are equally guilty of getting excited and ripping into the Valentine’s Day candy, too. Remember, your kids are watching you. Always. As such, it’s important to set a good example so that your children will mimic your attitude and behaviors around candy and basic dental hygiene practices. When you brush your teeth of the morning you expect your child to have some extra candy, explain to them the importance of brushing each day. Also, emphasize that since you know your teeth may have some additional exposure to sugars and candies on that day, that you are making sure they are healthy and ready.
Brushing Teeth Post-Valentine’s Day Tips
No matter what treats (if any) your child consumed on this holiday, make the tooth brushing event a family affair on this day. Explain to your children that you’re taking extra care to brush thoroughly because of the candy or treats from that day. Be sure to provide your child with positive reinforcement and extra praise for doing a good job.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that children who are two years old and up should use fluoride toothpaste while brushing. Be sure to instruct your children not to swallow the toothpaste. You should always ask your pediatric dentist if fluoride toothpaste is the best option for your child according to their age and developmental level. Demonstrate how to properly brush teeth with brushstrokes that go up and down or in a circular motion, not side-to-side.
Tooth-Friendly Valentine’s Day Treats
Taffy. Dark chocolate. Fruit. Truth is, some sweets are worse for our teeth than others. Hard candy, in particular, can launch a serious assault on the pearly whites of your child. Learn more about what treats you should avoid and which ones are good to go this V-day.
Types of Candy to Avoid for Children’s Dental Health:
Any type of hard candy that you suck on for a period of time can leave a sugary coating on the teeth. This causes a prolonged period of exposure of your teeth to sugars. Bacteria will create the acid that can erode your child’s teeth and cause cavities to form. Hard candy can also break or chip a child’s tooth.
Gummy candies that contain tacky sugar can be yummy, but they can also be hazardous to your child’s teeth. Gummy candy is not held in the mouth as long as hard candy, but due to the consistency, it tends to leave behind a sticky mess on the teeth. This sugary residue can erode the enamel on your child’s teeth. This enamel is supposed to serve as a protective barrier – and without it – your child’s teeth are more prone to decay.
Whether it is in gummy or hard formation – it doesn’t matter – sour candies are the worst type of food for your child’s teeth. A heavy-hitting concoction of acids is found in these candies (that includes citric, fumaric, and malic acids) – and it can lay a serious assault on the oral health of your child.
If you are baking some treats on Valentine’s Day, you should avoid adding in substances with sticky consistencies. For example, if you decide to cook brownies or cookies, do not add raisins or toffee, which will just cause all the sugars to stick to the teeth.
Valentine’s Day Treats That are Better for Your Child’s Tooth Health:
You can get creative and offer up some cute fruit cut into hearts on Valentine’s Day. Another type of fruit that is popular on Valentine’s Day is strawberry. Opt for chocolate-covered strawberries instead of chocolates for a healthier twist that is better for your kid’s teeth.
Sugar-Free Gum and Treats
You can find yummy treats that are sugar-free for your kids on Valentine’s Day. Also, sugar-free gum is a great option, as it can even increase your flow of saliva, which neutralizes acids produced by plaque and bacteria.
Cookies, Cakes, & Brownies
If you still want to go sweet but with as minimal damage as possible to your child’s teeth, then consider baked goods. Any baked good is going to be better than sticky chewy candy. Plus, you can make these recipes at home and regulate the amount of sugar that is added or even try sugar-free versions of recipes.
If you want to buy small candy bars or chocolate to enjoy on this holiday, go for the dark option. This allows your child to enjoy the flavor of cocoa while gaining a couple of health benefits. In fact, one of those is that cocoa can help harden your child’s teeth enamel!
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