If you are like a lot of parents, you may feel like your kids have been subjected to a constant barrage of sugar over the past several months. First came Halloween, with its plastic pumpkins filled with candy. And right about when those stashes ran out, the holiday season arrived, bringing with it candy canes, eggnog, popcorn balls, and various other treats that your kids love, but their teeth don’t.
And now we are weeks away from Valentine’s Day, another traditional candy fest. If you’ve stepped into a store recently, you’ve already seen the displays of heart-shaped chocolate boxes and conversation hearts.
It may seem as if giving your kids a tooth-friendly Valentine’s Day is an impossible task. But it’s not. With a bit of creativity and effort, you can scale back the sweets this month and help keep your kids’ smiles healthy and cavity free.
Continue reading to learn how — and be sure to get dental appointments in the books for every member of your family. If you live in or around Louisville, KY, call Natural Smiles at 502-785-8695.
Treats Don’t Have to Be Edible
There is no Valentine’s Day rule stating gifts must be something sweet and edible. You have plenty of non-food and non-candy options for your children, no matter their ages. Pick up holiday-themed pencils, erasers, stickers, and other trinkets for cheap at the dollar store. Younger kids may love a new stuffed animal, a puzzle, or a coloring book. Kids of all ages will appreciate books, clothing (Valentine’s Day themed or not), and games.
Check out these ideas for inspiration, or use your imagination to dream up the perfect gift for your own child!
A Valentine’s Day Breakfast
Mornings are so often rushed affairs, with everyone scarfing down cereal or toast and then running out the door. Maybe because it’s such a rare thing, there’s something really memorable about waking up to a special breakfast. There are several ways you can give your family a healthy, Valentine’s Day breakfast to remember.
- Cut fruit into hearts, or serve naturally heart-shaped strawberries
- Form pancakes into hearts
- Cut out toast with a heart-shaped cookie cutter
- Cook eggs in a heart mold
- Whip up a batch of strawberry pink milk
- Make frozen yogurt covered strawberries
Add Some Love to the Lunchbox
Give your child a surprise in his or her lunchbox — and make it something that won’t rot the teeth. Lots of foods can be turned into charming Valentine’s Day treats with the help of a small heart-shaped cookie cutter. Rather than sending in boring square cold cuts, cheese, and crackers, cut the meat and cheese into sweet little hearts.
Cheese is especially good for dental health. Like all dairy products, it is an excellent source of calcium, which is a mineral that’s essential for strengthening tooth enamel. Plus cheese in particular has been shown to increase the pH levels of the mouth, which creates a less hospitable environment for decay-causing bacteria. Other fun lunchbox ideas include:
- Heart shaped pita chips served with hummus
- Skewers of fruit cut into heart shapes
- Heart-shaped sandwiches (use a larger cookie cutter or make mini sammies)
Are you sensing a theme? Yes, anything that’s cut into the shape of a heart is more fun!
Avoid Candy-Loaded Class Valentines
So many Valentine’s Day cards marketed for classroom exchange are packaged with sugary treats. Multiply a lollipop or chewy candy times twenty, and you have a dental disaster on your hands! When you help your child pick out classroom cards, skip over anything that includes candy. Choose styles that feature tattoos, stickers, buttons, jokes, or another non-edible delight!
And when your child inevitably comes home with a bag full of candy from the school Valentine’s Day party, help him or her sort through the sweets and purge anything sticky or gummy. Chocolate is okay in moderation — just hold on to it and dole out over time.
Some Treats Are Worse Than Others
There is no need to ban all candy from your child’s diet. After all, total deprivation may breed temptation. But you should know which treats should be avoided at all costs, and which are okay in moderation.
Anything sticky, gummy, or chewy is especially harmful to dental health. These textures get stuck in the grooves of the teeth and stay there, enabling lots of bacteria to grow and give off the acids that destroy tooth enamel. This even includes raisins and other dried fruits.
Chocolate is a better choice because it rinses out of the mouth fairly quickly. There is even evidence that chocolate contains tooth-friendly compounds (though the sugar in most commercial chocolates will cancel out any real benefit).
As always, it’s important to make sure your kids are practicing good oral hygiene and drinking plenty of water throughout the day. And regular dental visits are key. For a tooth-friendly Valentine’s Day and beyond, call Natural Smiles of Louisville, KY at 502-785-8695. Or fill out our online form.