If you are like us, you’ve been snacking a bit more than you normal during these lockdown periods. Which also makes it more likely that your kids have been snacking with you. But that’s ok – these are extraordinary days, and what used to be normal seems a distant memory.
Whatever eating or drinking habits you have with your kids, we’ve put together some simple advice to reduce any need for fillings when they next visit the dentist.
Here are some of the snack habits which we try to implement with our kids:
1. Have a routine around what they can eat.
On school, or child care days, prepare a lunch box with healthy treats that they can snack on during the day. Healthy food options are good for the brain as well as their teeth. Plus in those moments when they are bored and might go looking in the pantry for a distraction, they understand that there is a lunchbox waiting for them.
Some lunchbox options include:
- Cut up fruit and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds. Dried fruit is ok in small quantities as it is high in sugar and being sticky, tends to stick to their teeth
Lunchboxes, can not only be fun for little ones, but they also provide an opportunity to be creative with how you mix your foods. One day it might be crackers and cheese, and the next it could be carrots and dip. Another great thing about lunchboxes is that you can cut everything up 2 or 3 days ahead so that putting it together in the morning is a quick process.
2. Reward them with a smoothie instead of a chocolate bar.
Snacks are often used as rewards, and we want our kids to have them because we know how much they love them. But the real reward should be their health, and sweet treats are ok sometimes, but not every day. Alternatives could be an outdoor game, a milkshake (banana with honey is delicious), or a small smoothie.
3. Home baking
We love to bake in our household, and getting the kids involved with the baking can be a great way to spend time together. A favourite recipe for us, which doesn’t require any cooking, is bliss balls, and they are so easy to make. There are plenty of recipes online to try.
4. Just one more…
We all know the scenario: the kids are ‘hangry’ or bored, you are busy, and there is an open packet of biscuits in the pantry. Before you say “yes” to their plea of “just one more”, consider what they have eaten across the day. How much sugar have they already eaten? When you keep track of their daily eating habits in this way, it helps to visualise where the balance of their foods are coming from. Yes, we can all have bad food days, but if this is happening regularly, then you are putting their physical and dental health at risk.
5. Hidden plaque – a game for the whole family.
Plaque is nasty for our teeth. Twice daily brushing and flossing are good habits to have but can be more difficult with young children, and even teenagers. One way to measure the level of plaque in their mouth is to have them eat a plaque tablet, which will reveal the plaque on their teeth. Thorough brushing is required to remove all of the discolouration, which will help them learn how to brush their teeth properly. You can get the whole family involved in eating a tablet after brushing their teeth to see who has been brushing correctly.
Strip of 6 Plaque Disclosing Tablets
Plaque disclosing tablets can be purchased over the phone from our dental practice and are $7.50 for a strip of 10 tablets (includes delivery via mail).
What’s wrong with sugary snacks, anyway?
Sugary snacks taste great – but they are not good for your teeth as they can cause tooth decay.
How do sugars attack your teeth?
Bacteria that live in your mouth form a sticky material called plaque on the surface of the teeth. When you put sugar in your mouth, the bacteria in the plaque turn the sugar into acids. These acids are powerful enough to dissolve the hard enamel that covers your teeth. That’s how cavities get started. If you don’t eat much sugar, the bacteria can’t produce as much of the acid that eats away enamel.
Snacking smart to protect from tooth decay?
Keep in mind that certain kinds of sweets can do more damage than others. Gooey or chewy treats spend more time sticking to the surface of your teeth. Because sticky snacks stay in your mouth longer than foods that you quickly chew and swallow, they can cause more damage.
When you’re deciding about snacks, think about:
- The number of times a day you eat sugary snacks
- How long the sugary food stays in your mouth
- The texture of the sugary food (Chewy? Sticky?)
Damaging acids form in your mouth every time you eat a sugary snack. The acids continue to affect your teeth for at least 20 minutes before they are neutralised and can’t do any more harm. So, the more times you eat sugary snacks during the day, the more often you feed bacteria, the fuel they need to cause tooth decay.