'Sugar bug' defense for 'Sweet Tooth'

Angelina Bainter poses with a bowl full of candy at Hurlburt Field, Fla., April 3, 2012. Parents should monitor their children’s candy intake during the Easter holiday as well as throughout the year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman John Bainter)(Released)

Angelina Bainter, daughter of Senior Airman John Bainter, poses with a bowl full of candy at Hurlburt Field, Fla., April 3, 2012. Parents should monitor their children’s candy intake during the Easter holiday as well as throughout the year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman John Bainter)(Released)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- The Easter bunny is hopping into town, and with that comes smiling children uncovering hidden sweet treats to eat. While children may just be worried about eating their chocolate rabbits and other goodies, parents are concerned about safeguarding their children's smiles from the damage of candies' sugar.

Did you know that Americans spend more than two million dollars on Easter candy, according to the National Confectioner's Association? In fact, the average American consumes 180 pounds of sugar and nearly 25 pounds of candy during the year.

While we want to protect our kids and ensure they are in the best of health, candy consumption does not mean instant cavities. It's all about being smart and choosing the right type of sweets. 

You do not have to restrict sweets with your children, but you should watch out for the amount of time the candy stays in their mouth. The less time sugar comes in contact with the teeth, the better. The "sugar bugs" mix with the bacteria in your mouth producing acids that break down the enamel and cause weak spots that can easily turn into cavities.

One suggestion for parents is to steer clear of buying sticky treats like taffy. These candies grab hold of the teeth and stay in contact with the enamel for long periods of time. A simple equation to remember is, "the longer food/candy is in your mouth, the greater the chance of you developing cavities."

Here are some helpful tips to help you and your child and make sure you are doing the best possible job of keeping their smile beautiful and healthy. 

  • Limit chewing candies for longer than 10 minutes. 
  • Try sugar-free candies instead. 
  • Eat candies during or right after a meal. While eating, your body increases saliva flow which will neutralize the acids.
  • Always encourage brushing after every meal. 
  • Chew sugar-free gum certified by the American Dental Association. This type of gum will help increase saliva flow.
By following these suggestions, you no longer need to be afraid of giving or limiting your child's moderate intake of sugar. Instead be smart about the types of candies you are allowing them to eat. Parents should remain involved and continue educating their child about preventive ways to protect their oral health in the years to come.