With Halloween just around the corner, you’d probably guess that dentists around the nation are cringing and shaking their heads. And, you’re probably right.
With that in mind, we imagine dentists would still like to see children partake in trick-or-treating fun this time of year. So the question remains, is there a way for children to enjoy candy over Halloween while protecting their teeth? Here are some of the best tips to help you manage the sugar influx this season.
The true meaning of a treat
"If a child is eating a healthy, balanced, tooth-friendly diet year round, some extra sweets on Halloween are typically not going to do much harm."
The fact of the matter is, Halloween is just one day out of 365 days in the year. If a child is eating a healthy, balanced, tooth-friendly diet year round, some extra sweets on Halloween are typically not going to do much harm. Like most things, it comes down to moderation.
- Help them maintain a healthy, balanced diet: Not just oral health, but overall physical, mental, and emotional health are tied to a healthy, balanced diet.
- Limit or eliminate sugary drinks: Unlike the occasional trick-or-treat sweets overload, sugary drinks like soda and sports drinks are a routine source of excess calories and tooth-decaying sugar that millions of children consume every day.
Keep teeth and gums healthy
Another step toward helping your children’s teeth survive Halloween is to make sure they’re as strong and healthy as possible going into it every year. While you may have heard the next three tips before, there’s likely an area your child can improve for a healthier mouth:
- Brush properly at least twice a day: Two minutes each time, with short, circular strokes, using a soft bristled brush, and being sure to spend enough time on every tooth surface.
- Floss between teeth at least once a day: While the brushing habit has caught on, flossing is usually far behind. Failing to do it means ignoring a part of every tooth that needs attention and cleaning.
- Visit the dentist at least twice a year: How often is your child visiting the dentist? If cost is a hindrance, consider joining a dental discount plan for 20%-50% savings off the retail cost of dental services.
Teach your kids which candies are the best
From a dental perspective, some candies are better than others. Teaching them to choose treats that are better for their teeth can help reduce the impact of the Halloween sweet-fest.
- Limit or eliminate hard candies: Any sugary treat that needs to stay in your mouth for an extended period can be doing more damage to your teeth. Rather than the flood of sugar that feeds the tooth-eating bacteria being there and gone, it’s an ongoing coating that lasts much longer.
- Limit or eliminate extremely sticky candies: Super sticky candy like taffy and some kinds of caramel can become attached to teeth, and saliva and even brushing may not clean them off well enough.
Pick the best time to indulge
Finally, once all that sugary sweetness is in their possession, how can you make sure your children can enjoy their Halloween windfall without doing too much damage to their teeth? It’s a matter of timing.
- Eat sweets along with or right after a meal: When eating, your saliva production is at its peak. Since saliva is your body’s first and best line of defense against the tooth decay sugary treats can cause, eating them when the defense is on the field can help.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after: Staying hydrated is important for every aspect of health, but it also serves a few practical purposes in relation to eating sweets. Drinking plenty of water maintains optimal saliva production, it boosts the immune system, which can continue to fight bacteria that make it past the saliva, and it serves to continually rinse out the mouth of any sugary particles your toothbrush missed.
- Include sugar-free gum in the candy bag: While sugar free gum may not be near the top of every homeowner’s Halloween shopping list when they’re preparing for trick-or-treaters, consider tossing a few packs into the stash after your children get home. Chewing sugar free gum promotes saliva production and tends to dislodge food particles that have been stuck between teeth.
Fun tip: Why not share some candy for a good cause? Look into Operation Gratitude, which sends care packages to U.S. troops stationed overseas and to their children, as well as veterans. Also consider the Halloween Candy Buy Back program, which benefits Operation Gratitude. Go to the website to search for a participating dentist near you who will accept candy in exchange for toothbrushes and coupons.
This Halloween, there’s no reason children can’t have fun. Just consider these simple tips to make sure fun in October doesn’t turn into a cavity in December. To learn more ways to care for your child’s teeth and save on dental care, see these tips on how to get your child to brush and floss more.