By Thomas Hall, DMD and Sara Rauen Dardis, DDS, Pediatric Smiles of Bloomington
Tis the season for holiday shopping and stocking stuffing! Most parents don’t want their kids to have a stocking full of candy, but it can be a challenge to come up with small, inexpensive things that kids will be excited to receive and that are actually useful! Everyone has teeth, and kids get pretty excited about getting new dental care items. Here are a few of our favorites.
- A new toothbrush is an obvious choice, and can be as delightful as a new toy! If you haven’t browsed the toothbrush aisle recently, you may be surprised at the plethora of fun choices available. There are themed brushes for almost every interest — Barbie, Disney characters, Paw Patrol, Star Wars, and Hello Kitty just to name a few. We really like the Firefly toothbrushes that light up and flash to help kids brush for one minute on each section of teeth. There are also many “spin brushes” that work like electric toothbrushes, except they aren’t expensive and don’t require a charging station. Then there are even tooth tune brushes that play “music in your mouth.” A travel-size toothpaste and toothbrush case are great for sleepovers or spending the night at grandma and grampa’s.
- Plaque disclosing tablets are small, chewable tablets that leave a stain on teeth surfaces that still have plaque. They are a fun way for kids to see if they are brushing effectively.
- Silly “heads” toothpaste dispensers in the form of Pete Dog, Oscar Cat, and Toothpaste Rex keep kids from squirting on too much toothpaste and making a mess.
- “Wisps” are mini, one-time use toothbrushes to use on the go if brushing isn’t possible. Rinsing isn’t necessary, and they are so small they can easily fit in a pocket or purse.
- Fun and fancy flossers can be just the thing to encourage kids to floss. Floss comes in many flavors, and flossing “picks” come in bright colors and different shapes, like dinosaurs.
- A toothbrush cover in the shape of animals or characters can protect the toothbrush from germs.
- Gum that contains xylitol is actually beneficial for teeth. It not only increases saliva production, which serves to “rinse” bacteria from the teeth, it is also a natural sweetener that neutralizes the acid-producing bacteria and prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth.
- It might be a bit too grinchy to not put any candy in stockings, but you can minimize the negative effect of sugar by avoiding hard and sticky types of candy like caramels, Life Savers, gummy bears, peppermint sticks, suckers, and peanut brittle. These varieties stay on the teeth for a long time and are difficult to rinse away. It’s like giving teeth a nice long soak in an enamel-destroying sugar bath! Sour candy is the worst of the worst as it is extremely acidic and can weaken and dissolve tooth enamel very quickly. Chocolate is the best option as it melts away and is easy to brush or rinse off.
- Packets of nuts, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds, and certain nutrition bars (KIND brand comes in mini-sized bars) are car friendly snacks that are healthy for both the body and the teeth.
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season makes it easy for dental health to fall by the wayside. There are sweets galore, we tend to snack more often, and eating on the go often increases. This year, help your kids look forward to routine oral hygiene by including some fun dental items in their stockings. By taking a few extra precautions, everyone can indulge in some holiday treats and start the New Year with a healthy smile. Always make sure that children (and adults) visit their dentist twice a year to detect any minor concerns before they become expensive problems.
Pediatric Smiles of Bloomington is a specialized dental office for children 0-18 and special needs patients. They are located at 1112 Trinity Ln. in Bloomington and may be reached at 309-663-7339. Ask about their “No-Cavity Club” and the rewards kids may earn.