My daughters, Charlotte, 10 and Julia, 8, are really looking forward to Halloween for several reasons. They enjoy the costume part and seeing their friends in our family- friendly neighborhood. The part they really enjoy is the candy they receive that lasts weeks afterwards.
We always limit the amount of candy our children have following Halloween, usually to two or three pieces a day. Their bodies are not used to too much sugar and neither are their teeth.
It is fitting that October is designated as National Dental Hygiene Month. Sugar-filled candies fuel acid development that damages teeth, leads to cavities and other adverse effects on oral hygiene. Vickie Brett, BS, RDH, CDA, Dental Assisting Program Director at ECPI University’s School of Health Science, Medical Careers Institute (MCI) offered the following advice to keeping teeth healthy during this time of candy indulgence.
Parents should make sure their children brush at least twice a day, and three times if possible. If youngsters are unable to brush, give them a piece of sugar-free gum to chew. Be sure to have children brush before going to bed as bacteria in dental plaque tends to increase in number during the hours of sleep when the mouth is closed and less saliva is produced.
Brushing can be fun by using a plaque-revealing rinse that leaves a purple hue where plaque has formed. Instruct children to brush with the goal of removing the color; it turns tooth brushing into a game.
Youngsters should use a soft-bristled brush and toothpaste that contains fluoride and that they brush from one side to the other and top to bottom to be sure no area is missed.
Adults can also encourage a dental-healthy Halloween by giving out non-sugary treats. Options include sugar-free gum and candies, cheese sticks, peanuts, sunflower seeds and popcorn.
Eat dinner before trick or treating. I take a cue from my mom who used to make a quick dinner of soup or other easy meal such as sandwiches. A healthy snack such as peanut butter crackers and fruit is also an option.
Be careful not to let children fill up on sugar over the next several weeks because this may deprive them of other nutrients they need.
This suggestion is hard however, Brett makes a good point, avoid sticky candy that adheres to teeth and causes decay such as gummy bears, taffy, caramel and fruit chews.
Studies have shown that the length of time eating a sweet can be more harmful than the amount of sweet consumed. This means hard candies, lollipops, and breath mints – which spend a longer time in the mouth – can actually be worse for teeth than a whole candy bar. Avoid eating any candy slowly over an extended time.
Finally, consider placing the candy on the top shelf so that you can proctor and distribute it over the following days.