Trick or Treat! Halloween is fast approaching and it can be a spooky holiday in more than one way. All of the candy can lead to children and even adults getting dental cavities. Kids often look forward to all of the Halloween sweets and treats, and parents worry about the damage sugar does to their kids’ teeth.
Here are some ways to prevent tooth decay this Halloween:
1. Limit sweets intake to keep cavities in check. Constant snacking on candy causes tooth enamel to be continuously exposed to acids produced by the bacteria inside the mouth. Remember that sweets should be a treat and not part of everyday eating. Every sugar dose equals about 20 minutes of a plaque attack. Remember to brush or drink plenty of water after eating sugary treats.
2. Make sure, especially after candy, that kids are brushing their teeth. Brush for at least two minutes twice a day, every day. This is particularly important if your child eats candy before going to bed because the dry environment of the mouth at night is an ideal playground for plaque. Make brushing fun by choosing fluoride toothpaste in your child’s favorite flavor, playing a favorite song while brushing or rewarding children with stickers for every good brushing.
3. Encourage and help your children floss to get all of the candy from in between their teeth. Flossing removes plaque and food that can’t be removed by brushing alone from under the gum line and between your teeth. Flossing before brushing loosens the plaque and debris, which allows it to be brushed away easily.
4. All children, especially at Halloween, should be using an age appropriate fluoride rinse at bedtime. Ask your dentist for recommendations.
5. Avoid extra sticky candy like gummy bears, caramels, and taffy, because those types of candy are hard for saliva to wash away and hence are more likely to stick on tooth surfaces and lead to cavities.
6. Hard candy that stays in the mouth for a long period of time also can subject teeth to increased risk for tooth decay.
7. Check all candy before your children consume it. Open packages, homemade treats, and for kids with braces, fillings, or crowns, extremely sticky delicacies should be thrown out.
8. Trade gum with your child. Offer gum with zylitol for tooth protection as a swap for the less healthy selections.
9. Eat a healthy, filling meal before going trick-or-treating. A full tummy leaves less room for junk food!
Halloween is a fun holiday and you shouldn’t have to worry about things like tooth decay. By practicing good oral hygiene and using moderation, kids can still enjoy candy.
(Editor’s Note: Athena Storey, works at Studio Dental, PLLC. She can be reached at 575-5576.)