Halloween Treats Don’t Have to Create Chaos in Your Child’s Mouth
Halloween is tomorrow, and children are looking forward to trick-or-treating for bags of candy that they can munch on for many months this winter. All that sugar doesn’t have to equal a mouth full of cavities and a visit to the dentist.
Have your children follow these 9 simple tips for a mouth healthy Halloween:
Before trick-or-treating, make sure to eat a well-balanced meal. This will lower the chances of filling up on empty calories and cavity-causing sugar.
Avoid chewy and sour candy options. Chewy candies can easily get stuck in the crevices between teeth, making it nearly impossible to wash it all away. Gummies and caramel have the potential to dislodge fillings, crowns, space maintainers and orthodontic appliances. Sour candies are highly acidic and can break down the enamel on your teeth.
Look out for hidden sugars and starches. Glucose, fructose and honey that appear in foods such as cereal bars, flavored yogurts, fruit bars, pureed fruit pouches and juices can be just as destructive on children’s teeth. Snacks such as pretzels, with starches that stay in the mouth longer, can also lead to cavities.
Establish a treat time. Snacking on candy over a long period of time can be more harmful for your children’s teeth. Limiting candy time will help you restrict the amount of candy consumed and protect their teeth from too much sugary contact. This ritual treat time may last long after Halloween and help promote healthy thinking about treats.
Pick a certain number of treats. After your children get back from trick-or-treating or a party, go through their bags of Halloween candy together. Tell them to each pick a certain number of treats (whatever number you decide, based on factors such as age) treats they want the most. Letting children help decide what is a reasonable amount of candy to keep has benefits beyond good oral health.
Get the unpicked treats out of sight. You can donate them to a food bank, save them for future treat times or freeze them if you can’t bear to throw them out.
Choose best options for a sweet treat. These include sugar-free gum and dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants like tannins, polyphenols and flavonoids 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 tooth-protective, non-acidic bacteria which can make it nearly impossible for bacteria and plaque to form.
Swish with water. Let’s face it – most kids don’t look forward to Halloween for the sugar-free gum and dark chocolate. And that’s OK. If kids are indulging in any kind of candy, ensure they drink plenty of water after eating the treat. Encourage them to swish the water around in the mouth to help dislodge particles that can get stuck onto tiny teeth. Decorate a Halloween-themed reusable water bottle to encourage your child to drink lots of water.
Reinforce good brushing and flossing habits. The best way to protect your kid’s oral health from sugary sweets is to brush and floss regularly. This is especially important following your treat times!
Sources: AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry), WebMD