Denise Cohen
Denise Cohen

By Dr. Denise Cohen

Purim is approaching, a festive time of year filled with merriment and excitement. Many of us are working hard to come up with the perfect costumes for our families, as well as creative themes for our mishloach manos baskets. It is a time for celebration and gratitude, for our people were saved from an ominous fate. Part of commemorating our salvation includes distributing “mishloach manos ish l’rei’eihu,” baskets of goods to our family and friends. Candy flies off the supermarket shelves this time of year, as people purchase lollipops, taffy, and other sticky delights by the dozen. Candy manufacturers seem to get more creative by the year, producing new and enticing forms of the sugar-laden sweets. But why must upholding tradition mean that we choose an unhealthy way to do so? Do we really want to distribute these cavity-causing treats to those most near and dear to us?

Let us examine how cavities form. Our mouths are inhabited by many different types of bacteria, some harmful ones, and some non-harmful ones. Certain bacteria attach themselves to our teeth, where they multiply and form colonies. Proteins from our saliva mix with the bacteria to form a film on our teeth called plaque. Brushing and flossing twice a day are necessary to remove this plaque film from our teeth. When sugar is introduced to the mouth, the harmful bacteria feed on it and produce acid as a byproduct. This acid then breaks down our tooth structure, causing cavities. This is why limiting sugar intake and practicing good oral hygiene habits are so important.

This Purim, let us make smarter choices when assembling our mishloach manos baskets. Instead of fruit rolls, fruit snacks, or fruit leather, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables. Instead of juice boxes or other sugary drinks, distribute small water bottles. Rather than sugar-laden sweets, try choosing nuts. Of course, I realize that many children look forward to the treats this time of year. Instead of the sticky, gooey candies, have your children eat the chocolate instead. Unlike most sweets, plain chocolate does not stick to teeth; instead, it melts away from teeth, reducing the length of time that the teeth are exposed to sugar. This decreases the likelihood of developing tooth decay. When indulging in sweets, make sure to brush afterwards.

Practicing good oral hygiene and consuming low-sugar foods will help to ensure that “Mishenichnas Adar marbim b’simcha”–instead of dental problems. v

© Denise Cohen-Kronfeld, D.M.D.

Dr. Denise Cohen is a board-certified pediatric dentist practicing in Woodmere. She can be reached at 516-459-8828 or


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