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Holiday Oral Health Tips for Kids

Child-Friendly Pointers On Opening Presents, Eating Sweets and Holiday Travel
It’s not easy keeping kid’s mouth healthy during the holidays. Chances are good that visions of cookies, desserts and candy canes may be dancing in your children’s heads this holiday season. There are ways to keep your kids’ teeth and gums in shape and to minimize damage to their dental health.

Teeth Are Not Tools for Tots
 Don’t let your kids crack nuts with their teeth: Although protein found in nuts helps keep muscles and bones strong, they shouldn’t test the strength of their teeth by shelling nuts. The hard surface of most nutshells can cause serious tooth and gum damage, and may even crack teeth. Your safest bet? Get a cool holiday nutcracker (they’re everywhere) and make shelling nuts fun for kids.
Use proper tools to open your child’s packages and bottles: We know kids get excited to rip into that gift from great-aunt Martha, but their teeth are not the right tools for the task. Gripping a package or stubborn bottle cap with teeth can crack them, possibly requiring a root canal and a crown. Help children by getting the wrapping off stubborn packages started for them and then let them tear away. Make sure you’re the one reaching for a scissors or bottle opener and not the kids.
 
Five Unhealthy Holiday Treats Kids Eat
Cookies, candy and sweet holiday beverages all have at least one main ingredient in common: sugar. You don’t need to cut your kids off from holiday goodies completely, but take a conservative approach to these sweets in particular.

Candy Canes:The problem with eating candy canes is the prolonged period of time that they linger in your mouth. Not to mention, the temptation to chomp on them, which can lead to cracks or chips in your teeth.
Christmas Cookies:It’s tempting to overindulge when there’s an abundance of baked goods. Cookies are laden with sugar and can do significant damage to your pearly whites. We know that skipping cookies entirely may be impossible. Just enjoy them in moderation.
Holiday Drinks: Eggnog, hot apple cider and hot chocolate are festive beverages that offer more than warm, holiday cheer. Eggnog boasts over 20 grams of sugar per cup, while hot cider can pack over 65 grams of sugar when dressed up with caramel sauce and whip cream. Stick to one small serving of your kid’s favorite drink.
Caramels:Chewy, sticky treats, such as grandma’s famous homemade caramels are particularly damaging, because they are high in sugar and spend a prolonged amount of time stuck to teeth. The same attributes apply to all of those sparkly gumdrops on your gingerbread house.
Fruitcake:Even though it’s the butt of many holiday jokes, some people actually eat the fruitcake that gets passed around at holiday parties. Oral health reasons to avoid it include the sugary cake base and the chewy, candied fruit throughout.

Counter Sugary Effects
Sugarless gum: Sugarless gum (especially with xylitol) is great way to keep your kids’ mouths busy while boosting saliva production, which will help wash away sugar. After treat time give your kids a stick for a healthy tooth wash.
Limit sugar time: Have special treat times during the day to limit the intake of sweets and so the holidays don’t become a sugar fest. You may also want to do as the French do and make cheese a part of dessert. Cheeses, such as mozzarella sticks, are not only kid friendly, they are also known to neutralize acid in the mouth, according to the American Dental Association.
Drink water and rinse to refresh: When you can’t brush, rinse your mouth with tap water to wash away food particles and bacteria.
 
Holiday Travel
Make a kid-friendly dental travel kit: Nearly everything comes in a travel size and we’ve found that the activity of putting together a dental travel kit will encourage great habits while you are away from home.  Don’t forget to pack travel-sized mouthwash, floss and a toothbrush for everyone in the family. Your kids will love their own dental kit.  Help them to pick out a special brush and mini-toothpaste just for their time away.
Schedule a visit to the dentist before you leave: Last but not least, your child probably has time off from school around the holidays. This is a great time to schedule a cleaning and checkup with your children’s dentist. As always, you can ask your dentist for additional tips on how to keep your kids’ teeth healthy during the holidays.
 
Keep Your Routine
Wherever you travel and whatever you decide to let your kids eat, don’t forget their regular dental habits.  It may be tempting to just go to bed after a long day of family fun, but forgetting their routine could mean no-so-fun dental problems later on. The holidays present a special opportunity to make dental health fun. Perhaps you can buy your children a toothbrush in holiday colors or a toothbrush that is decorated with their favorite cartoon character just for the season to make it special. Colored floss is also fun!

Sources: KidsHealthyTeeth.com, Delta Dental, DentalPatientNews.com

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