The deluge of sugar-filled candy treats at Halloween can be overwhelming for both kids and their parents. Loads of sugar is definitely not good for a child’s oral health, and getting that message across without making candy seem even more irresistible can be tough. But if you follow the tips we have below, your child should be able to enjoy the fun of Halloween in all its sticky wonderfulness without their smiles ending up looking like the Jack-O-Lanterns on your front steps!
Before your child goes trick-or-treating, be sure they eat a well-balanced meal. This will help reduce the likelihood that your child will want to fill up on candy on Halloween night.
Beware of certain candy options. Chewy candies are tough on your child’s teeth because they get stuck in the spaces between their teeth and they can loosen or dislodge crowns, fillings, orthodontic appliances and space maintainer. Plus sour candies can break down the enamel on your child’s teeth because they are highly acidic.
Be aware of starches and sugars that are hidden. While alternatives to candy such as cereal bars, flavored yogurts, fruit bars, pureed fruit pouches and juices can seem to be more friendly to your child’s teeth, they can actually be just as destructive on children’s teeth as traditional Halloween candy. Read the labels to see how much sugar is actually in the alternative.
Set a regular time for treats. Constant snacking on candy can be very harmful to your child’s teeth. Set a specific time each day (right after dinner or when they get home from school) when it’s “candy time” for your child. This ritual treat time can last long after Halloween and help promote healthy thinking about treats and moderation.
Pick a set number of treats. When your child returns from trick-or-treating or a Halloween party, sit down and go through their bag of treats together. Have them choose a set number of treats that they want the most. Letting children help decide what is a reasonable amount of candy to keep has benefits beyond good oral health.
Put away the extra treats. Donate them to a food bank, save them for future treat times or freeze them if you can’t bear to throw them out.
Pick the best candy options for oral health. Good ideas include dark chocolate and sugar-free gum. Dark chocolate is loaded with good stuff for your child’s oral health, including antioxidants that can inhibit bacteria from sticking to the teeth, preventing infections in gums and battling tooth decay. Sugar-free gum made with xylitol promotes the growth of “good” bacteria that can make it tough for “bad” bacteria.
Get swishy. Okay, we know that most kids aren’t looking forward to Halloween so they can eat dark chocolate and sugar-free gum. So if they are going to consume more traditional Halloween treats, be sure they drink lots of water during and after they eat their treats. Have them swish the water around before swallowing – it will help to dislodge particles of candy from between their teeth. Consider decorating a Halloween-themed reusable water bottle to encourage your child to drink lots of water.
Double down on your child’s brushing and flossing habits. Let’s face it, the #1 way to protect your kid’s oral health from sugary sweets is to brush and floss regularly. Especially after their “treat times”!
Figure out a healthy balance. You don’t have to deny your children some Halloween fun. Just be sure to balance those sugar-laden foods with healthy foods and talk about the difference between the two in their overall health.
Sources: AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry), WebMD