Ghosts, goblins, monsters, witches… and loads and loads of candy. That’s what Halloween is all about. And, while it’s all in good fun, savvy parents are going to want to make sure All Hallow’s Eve and the days that follow don’t turn into a horrifying oral health situation for their kids.
So, how do you protect your kids’ teeth without taking the fun out of the holiday for them? Here are seven tips to keep in mind:
Prioritize excellent oral health the rest of the year
One of the best things you can do to keep Halloween safe for your kids’ teeth is to realize that it’s just one day of the year. Investigate food choices that are especially good for their teeth and limit or eliminate sugary drinks most of the time. If, in addition, your children have excellent oral health habits — brushing twice a day, flossing regularly, and seeing their dentist every six months — then one night of indulgence is unlikely to lead to serious dental problems.
Try to schedule their most recent dental appointment just before or just after Halloween
It’s not always possible, and it may take until next year to get the 6-month schedule adjusted, but if you can get your child on a rotation that gives them the benefit of a professional cleaning just before or just after that one night of indulgence, all the better for their teeth.
Let them splurge on Halloween night rather than spreading it out
"Hard candies that are oversized are also a problem, as they’ll be in the mouth longer, prolonging the damage being done."
Of course, this tip also implies you’ll need to set reasonable limits on overall volume. But, from a dental perspective, it can be less damaging to eat a larger amount of sugary foods in one relatively brief time period than to eat the same amount over the course of several days.
That’s because the potential damage candy can do to teeth comes from the acid reaction that immediately follows consumption. This acid attack doesn’t really become worse or more prolonged based on how many pieces of candy they eat. But, each time they begin consuming candy again, the same process begins again.
Have some healthy treats on hand to swap out
You can’t always control what your neighbors are going to put in your child’s goodie bag, but you can make some strategic swaps after they get home. Have tooth-friendly options on hand at home, such as sugar-free gum or candy, sweetened dried fruit, and dark chocolate. With or without your child’s assistance (we’ll leave that up to you) swap these healthier alternatives for the very worst treats in their bags.
Consider non-candy options for swapping, too
Another similar tip is to have some items on hand that your children may be willing to trade their candy for. It could be some sort of toy they’ve been coveting, a little extra screen time, or some special activity you know they’ll enjoy. Just make sure, if they take you up on the deal, that you’re choosing the sweets more harmful for their dental health from their stash.
Avoid the worst candies for teeth
Hand-in-hand with the above tips, do your best to identify and (if you can) remove the worst candy offenders your child may have received. These include sticky, gooey varieties like caramels, toffees, and taffy. Also, anything very hard, like jawbreakers. Hard candies that are oversized are also a problem, as they’ll be in the mouth longer, prolonging the damage being done.
These types of candy are all doubly dangerous for your child’s teeth because they’re not just high in sugar. They’re also more difficult to clean off with a normal brushing, and can even do damage to teeth because they’re so sticky or hard.
Time the treat-fest properly
The best time for your kids to enjoy their Halloween treat-fest is when they will have quick access to a toothbrush after they’re done eating. If this is impossible, at least a tall glass of water should be a requirement. The key is to clean all that sugar out of their mouth as soon as possible after consumption so as to limit the damage and to keep from feeding a huge population of bacteria that are going to keep that acid attack going.
Eating a sugary treat right after a healthy meal is also a good idea, since your child’s saliva production is at its peak while eating. More saliva means less sugar sticking to tooth surfaces and damaging the teeth.
With these tips in mind, make sure your children have a fun and safe Halloween, and don’t worry too much about the effect one night of trick-or-treating may have on their teeth. In fact, feel free to enjoy a few pieces of chocolatey goodness yourself this Halloween… just make sure to brush your teeth when you’re done!