Valentine’s Day, Candy and Kids’ Teeth
The haul of Valentine’s Day candy that your little one brings home from a classroom party might give you visions of cavities and dental bills, as well as concerns about how much sugar is too much for your child.

Many parents – particularly first timers – wonder if they should even allow mega-amounts of candy and other sweets during such holidays as Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas.

The human body does need sugar, says Dr. James Sanderson, D.M.D., of Sanderson Dentistry in Birmingham. But while kids shouldn’t be given large amounts of candy on a regular basis, the issue should revolve around “what we can have, rather than what we can’t have,” he says.

The most important thing to do when a child comes home with that big box of goodies is to put it up and out of reach so that it can be doled out slowly and at appropriate times, says Dr. Angelica Rohner, D.M.D., of Doctors Bishop and Rohner P.A., at Brookwood Pediatric/Adolescent Dentistry.

“It’s important to have the candy as a treat, or dessert, after lunch or mealtime,” Rohner says, “because at mealtime, the flow of saliva is fast and high enough to help wash the sugar away.”

Serve the sweets as a treat just after a meal, she suggests. Then, if snacking is desired between meals, opt for popcorn, nuts or oilier, salty foods over sweets.

“Bacteria is always there in the mouth,” Sanderson adds. “It feeds on the sugar, creating acid that can break down the teeth, and after a meal or any food, it takes two to three hours for that acid level to come back down.

“That’s why, if you combine candy or sweets with a meal, it’s better for your teeth. If a person sips a Coke all day or eats sticky, sugary foods all day, it keeps the acid level high and enables the bacteria to eat away at the teeth all day long, too,” Sanderson says.

It isn’t the candy that’s the problem, he adds, but rather the constant snacking on sweets. That’s why limiting sweets to mealtime and brushing the teeth after meals is so important.

“We need to get children’s attention about good dental care and taking care of their teeth,” Sanderson says. “The most important thing is, ‘Are you cleaning your teeth every day, and are you doing it properly?’”