Halloween is right around the corner and according to CNN more than $2 billion will be spent on candy for nearly 42.1 million trick-or-treaters ages 5-14. So it’s a good time to consider the impact of candy consumption on children’s oral health!
Sugar does indeed cause cavities and cavities, in addition to causing pain and dental care costs, also cause missed school days, difficulty concentrating, and embarrassment. All good reasons to make your child’s oral health a top priority!
As a pediatric dentist I am acutely aware of how much damage candy can do to teeth but as a parent I also know that it’s nearly impossible to keep it completely away from my children, especially during holidays like Halloween.
So here are my tips on Halloween and oral health care:
- Some candy is worse for teeth than others. Sticky, gooey candy like gummy worms and caramels can get lodged in the crevices of your teeth where bacteria have more time to feed on them. If you’re going to let your kids eat sweets, stick with chocolate, which is more easily washed and/or brushed away. And definitely stay away from anything labeled “Sour.” The high acidity of these fruity/sour candies can weaken and wear away tooth enamel, which is essential to healthy teeth.
- Let them eat Halloween candy but only for a day or two. I let my own kids keep their Halloween candy for 24 hours and then I take it away. It’s the exposure to sugar on a regular basis over an extended period of time that is bad for teeth.
- Get them to brush and monitor their brushing. The American Dental Association suggests that children brush their teeth two times a day, twice a day but parents should require more brushing and flossing when they know their children are eating candy and other snacks that might stay on teeth. It’s not enough to just tell them to brush. One of the biggest culprits of tooth decay is bad brushing so parents should brush their children’s teeth until age 8 to be sure they are doing a thorough job.
- Hand out a non-candy treat. As a dentist I would love to see parents give out toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss at Halloween! But the truth is that there are many non-sweet treats that can bring more joy than a quick sugar high. Small toys, popcorn, fruit, money, bubbles, stickers, erasers and more make great Halloween treats.
Have a Happy Halloween! Don’t forget to brush and don’t forget to see your dentist for an annual exam.