No doubt about it: Halloween is a fabulously fun holiday, especially for children who come home with a bag of candy after a night of trick-or-treating. But it’s also one of those holidays that can be easily overdone. That is, eating too much candy can lead to stomach aches, sugar highs – and cavities.
“Naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth eat the sugar in candy and produce acid that dissolves the enamel of the tooth, leading to dental decay, or cavities,” said Dr. Francisco Ramos-Gomez, professor of pediatric dentistry at the UCLA School of Dentistry. “A period of high consumption of sugary foods, such as Halloween, can make controlling the pH balance difficult. Furthermore, candy has no nutritional value so it is important to limit when your child can snack on these treats.”
Ramos Gomez suggests the following six tips to help you balance good oral hygiene with enjoyment of the holiday:
- Know that moderation is the key. Dentists are not going to say parents shouldn’t let children have any candy, but they should try to limit the amount of candy children take home. They can also institute a rule that children can have only two small pieces after dinner the week following Halloween. The goal is to decrease the amount of time sugar is in contact with the teeth.
- Don’t allow children to snack on candy throughout the day. When that happens, their mouths don’t have enough time to create a healthy environment between snacks and meals.
- Sweet snacks and desserts make restoring the pH balance in the mouth difficult. So if your children are consuming lots of sweets, increase their water intake and make sure they eat nutritious foods to help restore that balance.
- Be aware that some candy is worse than others for teeth. Consider avoiding sour candies, which have extra acid, and chewy or sticky sweets, like gummies and caramel, which expose teeth to sugar for a longer amount of time.
- Consider giving out small toys instead of candy to your neighbors. Or choose candy that can be eaten quickly, thus limiting the amount of time sugar is in contact with the teeth.
- Make sure your children brush their teeth before bed – or do it for them if they’re too young. And be sure to use fluoride toothpaste to strengthen their teeth.
Good oral health habits are important not only at Halloween but year-round. Encourage your children to floss daily, brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and visit the dentist regularly.
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