Children (and many adults) are looking forward to tucking into sweet treats this Easter. Nobody wants to be a spoilsport, but it is possible to achieve a balance between indulging too much and potentially causing oral health problems and celebrating the holiday more safely.
Chocolate and Why It’s Bad for Teeth
Most of us know that sugar causes cavities but aren’t sure why. It’s because sugar feeds harmful bacteria naturally present in your mouth, found in dental plaque, a sticky biofilm that coats your teeth in between regular brushing and flossing. These bacteria thrive and multiply after feasting on sugary treats, producing a weak acid that coats your teeth.
The acid weakens tooth enamel, removing some essential minerals, including calcium and phosphate, during demineralisation. It takes between half an hour to an hour for acidity levels to begin to normalise, and during this time, remineralisation occurs. During remineralisation, some of the minerals remaining in your saliva are re-deposited back into the tooth enamel, helping to re-harden it. However, not all minerals will be re-deposited, and repeated exposure to acids eventually weakens tooth enamel to such an extent that it causes a cavity.
The good news is that there are some easy strategies to help minimise the risk of chocolate to teeth, and it’s all about how often you eat sugary foods and drinks. We have listed our top five tips to safely help the entire family enjoy Easter.
How to Reduce the Impact of Chocolate on Teeth
- Enjoy Chocolate as Part of a Main Meal
The temptation over Easter is to snack on chocolate frequently, but this increases the amount of time the mouth remains acidic, increasing the damage to teeth. Instead, encourage your kids to enjoy chocolate as part of their main meal. After eating, they will be producing more saliva, helping to wash away harmful acids and the remains of chocolate.
- Drink Plenty of Water
After eating, water is the best fluid to help wash away excess food, restoring a neutral pH more quickly. Encourage your child to swish the water vigorously around their mouth after eating chocolate.
- Stop Eating Chocolate At Least an Hour before Bedtime
Ensure your child stops eating chocolate at least an hour before bedtime so that when they clean their teeth, their tooth enamel has had a chance to re-harden during remineralisation. After eating something sweet, brushing your teeth too soon can damage softened tooth enamel.
- Avoid Easter Eggs Containing Fondant and Caramel
Certain popular brands of Easter eggs contain caramel and fondant, but if you can, avoid buying these for your child because they are more damaging than an ordinary Easter egg. The caramel and fondant can stick to teeth longer than chocolate that melts relatively quickly.
- Provide Healthy Snack Alternatives
Instead of chocolate, provide cheese, crunchy vegetables and fruit and breadsticks for children to snack on and to help curb a sweet tooth.