There are few events more anticipated by children than dressing up for Halloween and going trick-or-treating around the neighborhood! The month of October also means fall festivals and Halloween class parties that involve a lot of sugary treats. As fun as all of the holiday happenings are, throwing caution to the wind and allowing your kids to consume candy all day for weeks on end (perhaps months depending on the stash!) is not the best course of action in terms of oral health. It is not uncommon to hang on to Halloween candy until it’s replaced by Easter candy, and children can get into a routine of just grabbing a piece whenever they see it. Although it may seem inconsequential for your child to eat a few pieces of candy every single day, the habit of consistent sugar consumption has disastrous consequences. According to the CDC, cavities (dental caries) are the most commonplace chronic disease of kids aged 6-19 years old.
Fortunately, you don’t have to ban all treats to avoid dental sabotage this year. If the right steps are taken, you and your children can enjoy the fun of Halloween without scheduling an appointment for a filling come the new year. Here are three of the best ways to protect your children’s oral health this season:
Choose the right kind of candy to keep around
Although processed sugar is always an enemy of healthy teeth, there are some types of candy that will not do as much damage as others. When judged by ease of cleaning and amount of added sugar, chocolate is the winner when considering dental health. Dark chocolate in particular has far less sugar than many other candies, and chocolate in general is fairly easy to clean off of your teeth. In general, you want to avoid any candy that sticks to your teeth, such as caramel or a gummy. Even worse is sticky candy that is sour. Sour candy tends to be very acidic, and when it sticks to your teeth, the beginning of decay is sure to follow unless you brush and floss very thoroughly.
Additionally, hard candy should be avoided at all costs. This type of treat can send a child to an emergency dental appointment, as its not uncommon to break a tooth on a hard lollipop or gumball. Kids also tend to suck on hard candy for very long periods of time, allowing the sugar to sit on their teeth for too long. Stay on the safe side by going through your child’s candy bucket before they dig in. Your child will likely be more than happy with just chocolate to snack on for a few days, and you won’t have to worry about sticky sugar getting stuck in their molars or a piece of hard candy cracking a tooth.
In summary, prefer chocolate to chewy, sour, or hard candy.
Pick a time to allow your kids to eat their candy for a few days
One of the biggest mistakes that parents can make is to set the candy out and not provide any boundaries. The candy bucket should not be a free-for-all until it’s gone. If the majority of the candy is not given away or tossed, it will probably take months to actually eat all of it! It’s completely reasonable to keep a small amount and then donate the rest. It’s important to remember that Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner, and excessive amounts of sugar will likely be consumed during those holiday seasons as well. Try to limit the period of snacking on Halloween candy to just a few days.
Another tip to protect against cavities is to consider timing when your child eats candy. The best time for eating a piece of candy or two is around mealtime. Your mouth produces more saliva when eating meals, and the bad bacteria will be washed away more thoroughly. Ideally, the time for eating a treat should be the same everyday so that candy consumption does not become a round-the-clock affair. Helping your kids adopt a healthy and moderate perspective on eating sugar, rather than an all-or-nothing approach, will set them up for long-term dental success.
Maintain a consistent oral health routine with your kids regardless of holidays
This tip is perhaps the most important, as a solid dental regimen will carry you and your children through periods of eating less-than-nutritious foods. As long as it doesn’t become a lifestyle, enjoying seasonal treats in moderation is a part of life that should be embraced, not sacrificed! Eating candy every now and then is not a big deal if your kids’ teeth and gums are already healthy. Holiday seasons can make it difficult to maintain routines, but it is during these times that it’s even more crucial to remember the basic elements of great oral health:
- Brushing twice and flossing once everyday
- Seeing your dentist for bi-annual exams and cleanings
- Staying hydrated with fluoridated water
- Eating a nutritious diet
Halloween is an exciting time that involves candy, costumes, and fun for all ages! With the right course of action, sugary treats do not have to cause dental problems. Avoiding certain types of candy, planning a timeframe for consumption, and keeping up solid dental habits with your kids are all guaranteed ways to prioritize oral health while fully enjoying this spooky season.