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Little Teeth Truths: Healthy habits during the holidays

The holiday season is always a busy time – especially for families. With kids out of school and all the holiday festivities, it is not unusual for everyday life routines to be put on hold. And sometimes that means good oral health routines and habits go out the window, too.

As a parent, you may wonder how to keep your child’s mouth healthy and cavity-free through the holidays and into the New Year. Well, I have great news for you! This Little Teeth Truth will provide you with helpful tips for keeping their smiles healthy.

First, prevention is better than the cure and tooth decay is largely preventable. Establishing a Dental Home by age one where your child can receive preventive dental care and have regular check-ups will set them on the right path for a lifetime of good oral health. Don’t skip scheduled preventive dental visits during the hustle and bustle of the season.

Second, diet plays an important role in cavity formation. Sugary candy, cookies and drinks are part of the holidays and hard to avoid. Try to moderate sugar intake and watch out for carbonated drinks which erode teeth. Limit sugar intake by checking labels and buying sugar-free varieties of food options, if possible. Keep an eye on snacking, too – ideally children should have no more than three snack times a day. Different types of cheese such as aged cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella and Monterey jack are great as a snack or to eat after a meal because they clear the mouth of food and neutralize the acids that attack teeth. Fresh fruits and yogurt also make good snacks.

Third, maintaining good oral hygiene is essential for healthy teeth and gums. Help your child brush twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride.The ideal time to brush is after breakfast and before bedtime using a soft bristle toothbrush. Sticking to structured and predictable tooth-brushing times makes the habit become routine. It is always a good idea for parents to help and supervise brushing for school-age children until they are 7-8 years old. Helping your child with flossing will keep their gums healthy, too.

Holiday season is all about making memories and building family traditions. It is also a great time to help your kids establish and maintain healthy dental habits. Let’s protect those beautiful smiles for a lifetime!

Homa Amini, D.D.S., M.S., M.P.H.

Dr. Homa Amini is Professor of Pediatric Dentistry-Clinical at the Ohio State University College of Dentistry and an attending dentist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She is board certified in pediatric dentistry and is a fellow and national spokesperson of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD).  She is currently serving as the President of Columbus Dental Society and is a member of the AAPD Board of Trustees.