The holiday that makes pediatric dentists shake with fear is almost here. Halloween — the one day dedicated solely to celebrating all things frightful. But from a dentist’s point of view, the most chilling thing about the holiday isn’t the scary movies or ghosts. It’s the incoming sugar overload from children everywhere, looking to fulfill their sweet tooth with a successful night’s worth of free candy. So much free candy.
To no one’s surprise, candy sales in the U.S. skyrocket during the Halloween season, and some of the most popular choices include sugar-ridden favorites such as Skittles, Starbursts, and Reese’s. For children, it may very well be one of the best nights of the year. But for parents, a cavity is never fun news to receive.
With Halloween only a few days away, here are 5 tips to keep in mind to avoid any teeth-related spooks come November:
- Avoid sticky candies: Candies that are sticky and chewy tend to be the worst option for children’s teeth; especially for teeth that are still “coming in” around that 6-year age range. Caramel, taffy, gummies, and any other candies that may send your child’s teeth on a chew-fest are best to stay away from. Because these candies are so adhesive, they can get stuck in between teeth and lead to tooth decay if a proper dental hygiene routine is not in place. Additionally, these candies are even worse news for children with braces as they can damage brackets or wires. Hard candies, such as jawbreakers as the name suggests, may also be best to stay away from, as they can crack your teeth and make them work over-time if not careful.
- Opt for softer candies: Consider offering your children a trade for candies that are better for their teeth. Chocolate is one of the absolute best candies for your teeth and chances are, your child may prefer these softer candies compared to the harder, chewier ones. Although all candy is made up of sugar, and you definitely don’t want to be the parent offering fruit as a trade for candy, soft candies such as chocolates are a better option. Think peppermint patties and peanut butter cups — the sugar in these candies don’t cling to teeth for very long and they’re easily washed away with water and saliva. They are much easier to chew than their stickier alternatives and there’s no risk of damaging your teeth.
- Refrain from candies that take a while to finish: Whenever we eat or drink anything sugary, the bacteria inside of our mouth works hard to break this sugar down. In the process comes acid formation. Acid works to destroy tooth enamel which can lead to tooth decay over time. For this reason, it is best to go for candies that are easily consumable within one or two bites. When it comes to how bad a candy is for your teeth, frequency of exposure is much more harmful than the quantity consumed. Jolly ranchers and lollipops, for example, take a much longer time to consume than the standard Kit Kat, which means your teeth are left exposed to acid attacks for longer periods of time. These candies also allow sugar to linger in the mouth and feed bad oral bacteria.
- Consider swapping for non-candy alternatives: A successful night of trick-or-treating can mean your child has candy that will last for days, or possibly even weeks depending on how much they’ve received. In order to combat this issue, consider swapping candy for much softer and safer alternatives, such as cake or cookies. Store-bought sweets from a bakery can pose less threat to your child’s teeth than the previously mentioned hard and sticky candy. You may even want to consider baking your own sweets at home with sugar alternatives, such as Xylitol. This can be a fun activity between you and your child and may become a family Halloween tradition.
- Take extra care: See Halloween as an opportunity to ensure that your child’s dental routine is up to par. The bottom line is that sweets can lead to cavities and even tooth decay if a proper dental hygiene routine is not in place. Your child should be brushing their teeth for at least two minutes, twice per day with a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Flossing is equally as important and should be done at least once per day. Don’t forget that a proper diet is one of the most important factors when it comes to your teeth; eating foods that are high in calcium, as well as fiber-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, can work wonders for your teeth.
As with all other major holidays, Halloween deserves to be celebrated to the fullest extent! So have no fear…one night of candy consumption is not then end of the world for your child’s teeth. But do beware that too much sugar exposure and a candy overload is not viable for long-term tooth health. Because Halloween relies on sweets so heavily, it’s important to ensure that proper dental hygiene remains in place to combat those unwanted cavities. Although we too adore the holiday, our goal is to ensure that you and your child’s teeth are continuing to stay strong and healthy, even when sugary temptations arise.