Canyd and teeth–now there is a scary combination!! There are lots of scary things about Halloween, but cavities don’t have to be one of them! Your children have probably been planning their Halloween costumes for weeks, and the anticipation of trick-or-treating has reached a fever pitch by now. Halloween is one of the most candy-filled holidays of the year, but it doesn’t have to be a scary venture when it comes to your children’s oral health.
Odds are that your child will return from trick-or-treating with a lot of candy that’s not good for their teeth. They can still participate in the fun of dressing up and going door-to-door, but there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of all that candy harming your children’s teeth. Here are a few tips to help get you through this scary holiday!
Kids receive LOTS of candy at Halloween. Sometimes they receive so much candy that they’re eating it until Christmas. Not only is this not healthy for their body, it’s terrible for their teeth. All that extra sugar provides a steady stream of food for those acid-producing, cavity-causing bacteria. As soon as you take the first bite of something sugary, the plaque-causing bacteria begin to produce acids. While the acid is being produced, it starts to rob the tooth of minerals, and that’s how decay starts. Encourage your child to eat fun-sized candies instead of a full candy bar. The smaller portions have just as much flavor but a fraction of the sugars and calories.
Limit having your child eat their Halloween candy throughout the day. Instead, have them eat a few pieces with lunch or dinner when the saliva produced during a meal can cleanse the teeth with protective enzymes and minerals to protect against cavities. To decreasea the interaction time of candy and teeth, create a designated time for eating candy to reinforce the idea of moderation and can keep kids from eating candy throughout the day.
When it comes to Halloween treats, it’s not necessarily the amount of sugar in the candy you put in your mouth, it’s the consistency of it. Sticky sweets and hard candy are among the scariest candies out there. Candies that are especially sticky such as gummy bears, caramels, jelly beans and taffy get stuck on your teeth and are difficult to remove, even with regular brushing and flossing. Try to avoid these candies, as they can remain on the teeth for prolonged periods of time and cause tooth decay more rapidly.
Chewing sugar-free gum helps to increase saliva flow, which helps to wash away acids and bacteria present after eating candy. Gum containing xylitol is especially effective because xylitol actively blocks the production of decay-causing acid on the teeth.
When it comes to candy and teeth damage some candies are worse than others. Hard candies, such as lollipops and Jolly Ranchers take a long time to dissolve and stay in your child’s mouth for an extended period of time. This leaves plenty of time for teeth to get coated in sugar and for the bacteria to start to turn that sugar into acid. The longer the candy remains stuck in their teeth, the more time the bacteria have to feed on the candy and produce acid. The more acid produced and the longer amount of time the teeth are exposed to it, the more chance your child has of developing cavities.
There are around 700 different strains of bacteria in your mouth. Oral bacteria stick to your teeth in the form of plaque and the longer sugars and acids sit on your teeth, the harder they are to remove and the more damage they can do. These bacteria are always looking to eat, grow, and reproduce and they need to start by finding food in the form of sugars in your mouth. The more sugars they find, the faster they can eat and reproduce.
Brushing your teeth is the best way to keep them cavity-free and combined with daily flossing, will remove the harmful bacteria.
The acid in sour candies is extremely harmful to tooth enamel and causes it to break down quickly. Although you would usually want your children to brush their teeth right after eating candy, it’s best to wait at least 30 minutes before brushing when they’ve eaten something acidic. The action of brushing too soon can actually increase the erosive action of the acid on tooth enamel. Instead of brushing, give them a glass of water to help swish away the sugars and the acid.
Besides having positive overall health benefits, water is great for your teeth and mouth too! Drinking water helps rinse away sugar that would otherwise cling to teeth. It also balances out the pH levels in your mouth after eating sugar.
Candy and teeth will eventually find each other, but you can choose types of candy that are safer than others for your dentla health. The least harmful sugary candy is chocolate! It doesn’t stick to teeth like most other candies, and it’s actually good for your teeth! The darker the chocolate, the less sugar content in it. Research also shows that regularly eating a small amount of dark chocolate may help heart health by lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Halloween will come to an end, but the job of keeping your child’s teeth year-round continues! Regular dental visits with Dr. Shane S. Porter at Premier Family Dentistry of Eagle is another way to ensure your child maintains good dental health. Our office is located at 467 South Rivershore Lane in Eagle, Idaho and is easily accessible to patients in the surrounding communities of Star, Nampa, Middleton, Meridian, Garden City, and Boise.
After a night of trick-or-treating, call for an appointment at (208) 546-0655 or contact us online. Halloween doesn’t have to be scary for your children’s teeth. Balance the fun of this spooky holiday while caring for your child’s dental health, and have a safe and happy Halloween!