During the holiday season, children develop an even bigger craving for sweets.

And what parent wants to play Scrooge and say “no” every time their child reaches for another sugary cookie?

Sure, sugar is the enemy when it comes to tooth decay. It’s among the key contributors in the production of plaque acids that attack the tooth enamel. Eat enough sweets and the acids eventually win, ultimately causing the enamel to break down, forming a dreaded cavity.

So, how do parents tight-rope the fine line between allowing children to eat holiday treats, yet also try to limit the damage?

Here are tips we hope parents will find helpful during the holiday season:

  • Limit the sugar intake. Food that has sugar of any kind contributes to tooth decay. The bad news – practically all foods, including vegetables and milk, contain some type of sugar. To help control sugar intake, parents should read food labels and pick food and drinks that are low in added sugars.
  • Use healthy ingredients. Nuts, fruits, cranberries, molasses and dark chocolate are wise choices that possess less impact on a child’s teeth. Also, any holiday dessert made with whole wheat flour is a healthier alternative.
  • Choose healthy snacks. When picking a snack, include nutritious foods like fruit, plain yogurt, cheese, unbuttered popcorn, and raw vegetables. It’s OK to mix in occasional sugary items like cookies,but make them a treat rather than a staple.
  • What to avoid. Sugar cookies are an obvious one – they contain tons of sugar! Candy canes look good as a tree decoration, but are very bad for one’s teeth, and are 100-percent sugar. Chewy candy sticks to the teeth and gives bacteria plenty of time to consume the sugar. Hard candies can also be very damaging to teeth.
  • Maintain good habits. Kids (and adults) get caught up in the holiday spirit and fun, so it’s easy to forget about the daily rituals. The key to maintaining proper oral health over the holidays means regular brushing and flossing.