Halloween will be here before you know it and we all know that Halloween, to most children, means candy. Avoid scary tooth decay and don’t let candy be a nightmare this Halloween. Here are a few tips to help your little trick-or-treaters avoid the oral health hazards of this popular holiday.
Each year, Americans spend close to $9 billion on candy, and in October a lot of that candy will end up damaging the teeth of trick-or-treating children. You might be surprised to learn, however, that when it comes to causing cavities, not all candy is created equal. Sticky or chewy candies result in sugar being in contact with teeth for longer periods of time. When children chew sticky candies such as caramels or taffy, candy gets stuck on the surface and in between teeth. The longer the sugar is stuck to the teeth, the more time the bacteria have to feed on the candy and produce acid. The more acid is produced and the longer the amount of time the teeth are exposed to it, the more chance your child has of developing cavities.
Dentists Choice Of Candy
Have you ever wondered what dentists give out on Halloween? According to Delta Dental’s Trick Treats survey of more than 250 dentists, 60 percent indicate that they give out candy at Halloween. However, nearly one out of four said they do not hand out anything on Halloween, while 5 percent choose to honor the holiday by handing out toothbrushes. Of those who do hand out candy, 79 percent choose chocolate, while just 13 percent hand out varieties like hard candy or lollipops. And there’s a good reason for their choice of treats.
Chewy treats and hard candy are particularly damaging because they spend a prolonged amount of time stuck to teeth and are more difficult for teeth to break down. Sweets like chocolate that quickly dissolve in the mouth and can be eaten easily lessen the amount of time sugar stays in contact with teeth. Dentists still feel it’s important to limit the amount of candy your children eat at Halloween, and advise parents to choose healthy treats whenever possible, and when giving candy, remember that is important to limit the amount of time that sugar is in contact with your child’s teeth.
TIPS FOR LIMITING THE EFFECTS OF SUGARY TREATS
Offer healthy alternatives to candy. Eating sweets causes damaging acids to form in the mouth. These acids continue to affect the teeth for at least 20 minutes before they are neutralized. Sugar -free gum containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol is effective in combating the bacteria in plaque and fighting the acid that eats away at enamel. The chewing motion also stimulates the low of saliva, which helps cleanse the teeth. That makes sugar-free gum a smart choice to drop into Halloween bags.
Choose candy that can be eaten quickly and easily to limit the amount of time sugar is in contact with the teeth. Besides how often you snack, the length of time sugary food is in your mouth plays a role in tooth decay. Unless it is a sugar-free product, candies that stay in the mouth for a long period of time subject teeth to an increased risk for tooth decay.
Eat Halloween candy and other sugary foods with meals or shortly after mealtime. Saliva production increases during meals and helps cancel out acids produced by bacteria in your mouth and helps rinse away food particles.
Remember to limit sour candies that contain acids. These candies usually contain citric acid to intensify the sour flavor, and can contribute to dental erosion and cavities.
Drink more water. Drinking fluoridated water can help prevent tooth decay. If you choose bottled water, look for kinds that are fluoridated if possible. Fluoride treatments, applied directly onto teeth, are also available at your dentists’ office.
ALTERNATIVES TO CANDY
Instead of giving out Halloween candy this year you may also consider these fun alternatives to give out on Halloween night:
Sugar free gum
Party favor sunglasses
Small cans of playdoh
Small bags of pretzels or crackers
Pencils with Halloween erasers
Halloween bouncy balls
Small bottles of bubbles
Most kids love this stuff and it won’t cause decay!
Halloween is a great time for parents to think about their children’s teeth, but oral health should be a year round concern. Encourage good oral health habits with your children, including brushing twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride, flossing daily and visiting the dentist regularly. Halloween is a fun holiday and you shouldn’t have to worry about things like tooth decay. By practicing good oral hygiene and using moderation, your kids can have a fun and safe Halloween and still enjoy the candy!
Call your dentist or orthodontist today to schedule a consultation for your specific dental needs.