It's hard to say no to that pleading little toddler face, especially when a sucker is such a time-honored childhood treat. You may recall enjoying lollipops yourself as a child, and have a hard time seeing them as hazardous. Yet the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has placed hard round candies on its list of unsafe foods for kids under 4, and that sucker's nothing but a hard round candy on a stick.
Like any hard candy, suckers can be a choking hazard for your little one. The AAP points out that the choking risk is higher for young children than adults for several reasons. Toddlers have an airway with a smaller diameter than adults, and even small objects can get stuck in such a small space. On top of that, the air force generated by a toddler's cough is less than an adult’s, thus making it less effective in dislodging an object from the throat if something does get caught in there.
Children are known for their endless energy and wiggliness. If your little one starts to run around with a sucker in her mouth, she could trip and fall, and the sucker stick could push the candy to the back of her throat. In addition to the choking hazard, this could damage the throat area. If you do allow your toddler to have a sucker, commit yourself to making sure she sits safely while eating it, and hands it to you if she wants to chase her sister.
As the Mayo Clinic points out, when the sugar from foods like suckers mixes with your child’s saliva and any bacteria found in her mouth, it creates a dangerous combination that can lead to plaque formation and cavities. Dentristy.com actually lists lollipops as one of the worst foods to indulge in due to the long exposure of your child's teeth to the sugary stuff as she sucks on it. Although ideally you would have your child avoid candy altogether (good luck with that), the Mayo Clinic suggests that you can help to prevent any serious damage to your child’s teeth by making sure she brushes with a fluoride-containing toothpaste after she's done with that sucker.
Although the choking and cavity risks of lollipops are much more worrisome, WebMD does points out that it's possible to chip a tooth when chomping down on a hard food, such as a sucker. Your toddler's baby teeth are softer than adult teeth, so the risk of accidental damage is greater. If you do hand over that sucker to your pleading little one, make sure she understands that it's for sucking, not biting and chomping and chewing. Be prepared to take away the treat if she seems determined to give her teeth a workout.
- Elmhurst College: Sugar and Tooth Decay
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Policy Statement—Prevention of Choking Among Children
- Mayo Clinic: Cavities
- Healthy Children: New AAP Policy on Choking Prevention
- WebMD: The Daily Grind: What Wears Down Your Teeth
- Family Education: Choking Hazards
- Dentisty.com: Top 7 Best and Worst Foods for Teeth
- Boston Children's Hospital: Airway Obstruction
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