By Dr. Linda Vidone, Dental Director, DentaQuest
Halloween is around the corner. Between picking out costumes, jack-o-lantern carving, and stocking up on treats, it’s hard not to get excited.
In the midst of the fun and fantasy, however, it’s important to remember that Halloween is a particularly spooky time for teeth.
Candy, particularly in large amounts, contributes to tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when the sugars in candy and other sweets mix with bacteria in the sticky plaque that constantly forms on teeth to produce acid, which can wear away enamel. Chewy, sticky treats are particularly damaging because not only are they high in sugar, but they stick to teeth and are more difficult for saliva to get rid of them. Often, it takes a gentle scrubbing with a toothbrush to remove the sticky stuff. Hard candies are tough on teeth too because kids tend to suck on them at a leisurely pace for an extended period of time. Think of it as a sugar bath for teeth.
Does this mean children shouldn't eat candy on Halloween? Of course not.
Dentists understand holiday treats are a fact of life, and don’t expect kids to completely avoid candy on Halloween. Here are some simple ways to keep you and your children safe from cavities.
- A good, healthy meal prior to trick-or-treating may mean kids are less likely to gorge on candy.
- Enjoy the candy in moderation. Chocolate dissolves quickly in the mouth and can be eaten easily, decreasing the amount of time sugar stays in contact with teeth. Consider limiting the remainder of the stash, to a piece or two a day-- especially the sticky, gummy, candy corn and chewy choices (and that includes raisins and other sticky fruits).
- Be sure to brush your teeth before going to bed. It is important to remove the sugars that can do damage overnight.
I see Halloween as a good opportunity to teach children about making sensible choices and taking care of their teeth. If they eat the candy, encourage them to brush (for two minutes) especially after sugary/starchy/sticky snacks --and don’t forget to floss every day too.