HALLOWEEN has just concluded and in the same way it scares individuals, it is also one of the scariest holidays for your teeth.
During the season, it might feel impossible to keep your kids away from the sweets; however, these tips can help limit candy consumption, help prevent tooth decay, and keep your child's teeth healthy and happy.
What Halloween candy is the worst for teeth?
Any candy that contains sugar will feed the plaque development that leads to tooth decay. It's no secret that some of your favourite sweets can damage your teeth and some types of Halloween candy are worse than others.
• Hard candy. You might think sticky candy would harm teeth most, but hard candy like lollipops and peppermints cause the most dental damage. These harder treats linger in your mouth longer, putting your teeth at risk for prolonged acid attacks, which lead to tooth decay. Plus, they can also trigger a dental emergency such as a broken or chipped tooth.
• Sticky treats. From gummy worms to caramels, sticky candy is plentiful during Halloween. These softer treats tend to remain on teeth and "stick around" long after the candy has been enjoyed. You can help reduce dental damage by enjoying one piece at a time, chewing thoroughly, and brushing teeth afterwards.
• Chewing gum. Surprisingly, one of the safest Halloween treats to enjoy is gum. Gum stimulates extra saliva production, which naturally rinses the mouth and keeps plaque-causing bacteria at bay. Choose sugar-free, all-natural gum that's sweetened with xylitol, which helps to reduce plaque acids and bacteria that cause tooth decay.
How do you protect your child's teeth during and after Halloween?
Though candy is plentiful, you don't have to let the threat of tummy aches and cavities ruin Halloween. With some extra diligence and a few ground rules, you can make the holiday fun and healthy for the whole family.
• Inspect the loot. When your child returns from trick-or-treating or a Halloween party, make sure you get a first look at the haul. Give them a piece or two to enjoy while you check their bag for tampered wrappers, potential allergens, or choking hazards.
• Limit candy consumption. Ask your child to help you sort the sweets into piles based on type: chocolate, gummies, and hard candy. Then use small baggies to create candy rations, including one piece from each pile. You can make a rule about how often your child enjoys a treat, like once or twice a week. Make sure to store the candy out of sight.
• Make snacking healthier. When it's time to indulge, permit candy consumption only at mealtime when extra saliva production helps to rinse food particles from teeth. Hard fruits and vegetables can also help dislodge any sticky treats from crevices in the teeth. When eating candies, have your child drink a bottle of water to help periodically rinse the sugar from their teeth.
• Prioritise oral health. Proper brushing with toothpaste is essential to preventing tooth decay, so getting your child into the habit is vital. Help your child correctly brush their teeth at the end of each day to remove sugary build-up. Also, practise interdental cleaning to remove any candy debris that might be stuck between teeth.
What are some alternatives to Halloween candy?
Whether you're stocking up for trick-or-treaters or looking for healthier ideas for your child's Halloween party, check out these candy alternatives for this favourite fall holiday.
What to hand out instead of Halloween candy:
• Fruits and veggies. Many grocery stores sell fruit and vegetables in individually wrapped snack packs. Check your produce aisle for treat-sized bags of baby carrots and apple slices to encourage dental health and provide a break from a bag of syrupy sweet candy.
• Dairy products. The dairy aisle holds more pre-packaged treats that go easy on the teeth. Individual yoghurt tubes come in various flavours and provide essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. You can also try cheese sticks, which are sure to be a favourite for hungry ghosts and goblins. Or quench a young vampire's thirst with drink boxes of organic chocolate milk.
•Chewing gum. As previously mentioned, sugar-free gum makes a great alternative to traditional Halloween candy. Chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals can help reduce tooth decay. The increased saliva helps wash out food debris and neutralise any acid produced by bacteria.
Halloween is a great time to promote oral health in your family and throughout the community. Whether you are limiting candy consumption in your own home or sharing nutritious, teeth-healthy snacks with friends and neighbours, you can help develop healthy habits while still enjoying the spirit of the holiday.
Dr Sharon Robinson, DDS, has offices at Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, located at shop #5, Winchester Business Centre, 15 Hope Road, Kingston 10. Dr Robinson is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Oral Health Sciences. She may be contacted at 876-630-4710. Like their Facebook page, Dental Place Cosmetix Spa.