Green beer, chocolate by the gross metric tonne, green gum and green-coated candy like “jaw-breakers” (the name alone instills fear in Dentists everywhere) along with candy-coated chocolate eggs and more, are all things you will find in abundance right now at your local grocery store. Well, perhaps not the green beer but you’ll certainly find the green dye to make your beverage green and that’s just as scary. What does this mean other than both St. Patrick’s Day and Easter will soon be upon us? It means a potential dental nightmare for both parents and kids alike! If you don’t want your teeth also turning green, or cavities developing due to a three day old chocolate coated film on your teeth – read on!
Contrary to popular opinion, Dentists like a party just as much “as the next guy.” Many of us in North America, regardless of our cultural heritage, delight in the opportunity to be “Irish” for a day. Some drink Guinness, considered a national treasure in Ireland but more often than not, the trend on St. Paddy’s Day is to drink green beer – for those of legal drinking age of course! Many families fully embrace the green dye and might make green coloured pancakes for breakfast and green coloured mashed potatoes for dinner. That’s a whole lot of green dye! Of concern when using food additives (of any colour) is the impact it might have on behaviour for some, and on our teeth for all of us. The use of food dyes, incidentally and not just on St. Patrick’s Day, has increased over 500% in the last 50 years and is most often associated with various foods that would fall in to the category of “junk food.” Various studies have suggested that food dyes are associated with a number of risks, including behavioural problems, ADHD and even cancer. I know right now you’re probably thinking “but it’s just one day” and you’d be right but an excessive amount of any colour food dye, all in one day, could be problematic. In many countries across Europe (and in the UK in particular) voluntary bans are now in place on all food dyes and companies are switching to more natural food based additives to create colour. This is not a bad thing and it would be nice to see North America follow suit.
Until we do, what can you do to protect your teeth? BRUSH. FLOSS. RINSE. DRINK WATER! Whether you’re trying to dilute the effects of green dye (or green beer!) drinking lots of water is always a good thing for your health and your teeth. Encouraging kids to remember to brush at least 2x per day (and preferably 3) especially after indulging in green coloured anything is also always a good thing! If you’d like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day but don’t want to deal with the dye, buy a green toothbrush, a green t-shirt or some green party favours from your local discount store and you can still eat green “treats” by serving all green foods – foods that are naturally green and good for you too. We hear avocado on toast is a trend!
As for the next big celebration that will soon take place, whether you are Christian and honour those religious traditions or not, Easter is a “holiday” that just about everyone embraces and by “embrace” we mean eating chocolate! Chocolate bunnies, chocolate NHL players, chocolate eggs and candy-coated chocolate eggs are all consumed in abundance at this time of year. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare! First you have to remember to hide the treats according to the tradition of the “Easter egg hunt” and then you have to police the consumption of said chocolate by your little ones, who are no doubt eager to eat it all at once! Well we don’t want to put a damper on Easter for anyone but lingering chocolate-coated teeth can lead to lingering problems long after Easter is over and done with. It’s time to make a bargain with your chocolate loving children. Establish rules that you are comfortable with such as agreeing to a specific time for treats to be consumed (as a treat immediately following dinner for example) and negotiate the amount that you feel comfortable with. Part of the deal includes that immediately following consumption, your child or children BRUSH and RINSE. We’ll leave out the flossing for now (that might be pushing it) but drinking water is always a good idea. Sure it requires a little extra effort on the part of the parent monitoring this whole process but it sure beats the extra effort required to have a cavity filled by your Dentist!
Any excuse to celebrate is always fun. We’re not “anti” anything. St. Patrick’s Day and Easter are both a great excuse to have a little party and indulge in a little something extra, whether that’s green beer or a handful of little chocolate eggs. But like your Mom probably always said: “all things in moderation,” to which we would add, “and always brush your teeth!” It’s really that simple and is just what our motto suggests when we end every blog the same way: ”don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”