Halloween is scary in more ways than one. Not only do all the ghosts and goblins come out, it’s the single biggest candy day of the year. Between the sugar overload, the tricky costumes and the treat filled parties, there’s no easy way to protect your children’s teeth.
According to a 2011 survey by DeltaDental, 60% of dentist hand out candy and only 5% hand out toothbrushes to trick or treaters. The key to a happy, healthy Halloween is making smart choices and following a few simple rules.
Before Halloween rolls around:
- Select a costume for your child that is the proper length. Unfamiliar walkways, dark streets and sidewalks and uneven porch steps combined with a too long hem are trip and falls waiting to happen. Protecting your child’s teeth is about more than eating candy. And don’t forget to check the batteries in the flashlight!
- Buy better treats. Miniature chocolate bars, stickers, glow sticks and small toys are all good alternatives to hard candy, gummy animals, sugary drink boxes and pop, caramels, crispy peanut butter bars, fruit snacks and rollups and other nut filled offerings.
- Another smart choice is sugar-free gum. 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. Chewing gum also stimulates the flow of saliva, which helps cleanse the teeth. When in doubt, look for the American Dental Association (ADA) seal on the package.
On Halloween night:
- Have a balanced meal before trick or treating. A child with a full tummy is less tempted to eat candy before mom and dad can inspect their candy for safety.
- In addition, a sensible diet contributes to overall well-being, including healthy teeth and gums.
- Ration the loot. Inspect your child’s candy for open or suspicious packages, any items they may be allergic to, like nuts and dyes and then carefully dole out the candy. Candy is not a food group, it’s a treat.
- Avoid jaw breakers and other hard candies that stay in the mouth for extended periods of time. How long sugary food is in the mouth plays a significant role in tooth decay. Candies that stay in the mouth for a long time subject teeth to an increased risk for tooth decay.
- Traditional Halloween treats, like caramel apples and popcorn balls are especially hard on teeth, be sure to be diligent about brushing and flossing after eating them.
- Reduce temptation. Donate the unwanted candy to a local food bank, veteran’s group or shelter.
- Drink more water! Drinking fluoridated water can help prevent tooth decay. If you choose bottled water, be sure to check to see if it is fluoridated.
- Brush and brush again. Halloween is the perfect time to reinforce good dental hygiene habits. Lead by example; join your children when they brush. Children should brush at least twice a day for two minutes with a small (pea-sized) amount of fluoridated toothpaste and rinse with a fluoridated mouth rinse.
- Clean between teeth daily with floss. Turn flossing into a competition with kid size dental floss picks. Tooth decay-causing bacteria hide between teeth where toothbrush bristles can't reach. Flossing helps remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line, reducing the likelihood of gum disease.
These rules are even more important if your child wears braces. Food is more easily trapped in braces, amplifying the opportunity for tooth decay and gum disease. And if you are tempted to sneak a few pieces of candy for yourself, remember, the same rules apply to adults too.
Halloween is the perfect time to contact Southfield Family Dental Center to schedule your family’s next dental visit. Come visit us at least twice a year, your smile is important to us!