Post Halloween Dental TipsFamily Health
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
If you are a parent, chances are you’re still staring at a sizeable pile of sugary snacks from the Halloween haul. Try as you might, it is never easy to convince your child to part ways with their knapsack full of candy.
The uphill battle lasts long after Halloween is over. Having sweet treats littered around the house for weeks after trick-or-treating can pose a real problem for parents who are trying to be proactive about their kids’ oral health.
So how bad is Halloween candy for children’s teeth? Is there a calculated way to sift through their secret stash to mitigate dental damage?
To get to the bottom of this age-old power struggle, we look to American Dental Association (ADA) dentist Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty, who says, “It’s OK to eat that candy on Halloween as a splurge, as long as you’re brushing twice a day and flossing once a day all year long.”
The operative word is ‘splurge.’ No one wants to be a downer when it comes to holidays, but when Hallows’ Eve results in a seemingly bottomless candy collection, it can lead to months of unhealthy snacking.
While one night of excess won’t lead to cavities, sustained candy consumption can be problematic. It comes down to one simple factor, SUGAR! “Simple sugar is the fuel that causes the bacteria in your mouth to produce acid,” says Dr. Ramon Duran, DMD. “As the bacteria breaks down the sugar, the resulting acid breaks down tooth enamel, which can’t be rebuilt. That fuel can last for up to an hour, depending on the type of candy, so if you have a kid who is eating a piece every half hour, the decay will become a constant process.”
The National Library of Medicine (NCBI) states that, “Dental erosion is a common disease in children. Food diets, due to high amounts of juice, soft drinks, chewing gum and acidic chocolate, are one of the most important risk factors in erosive processes among children.”
It works like this. Bacteria in your mouth breaks down the sugar in Halloween candy to produce acid. The longer the teeth are exposed to this acid, the greater the chance that tooth enamel will break down and become weakened. This is what causes cavities and tooth decay down the road.
To ensure that your child’s chompers make it through the rest of the year unscathed, it is important to know which sweets cause the least amount of damage and then dismantle their candy stash accordingly.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when the candy man makes his rounds again.
- Consistency. Usually the stickier the candy, the worse it is for your teeth. So be picky if it’s sticky. Chewy, sugar-coated snacks sit on the teeth and corrode the gum line. “This candy is harder to remove and may stay longer on your teeth, which gives that cavity-causing bacteria more time to work,” Dr. Ferraz-Dougherty says.
- Duration. When it comes to sugar, time is a huge factor. Allowing sweets to linger on your teeth and in your mouth for longer periods of time should be avoided. If you have to choose between handing your child a lollipop to suck on for thirty minutes, or a bite size chocolate bar, go with the chocolate. Thirty minutes is an awful long time to expose mouth bacteria to sugar.
- Frequency. Keep tabs on how often your child is eating candy. It may seem like you’re hovering, but oral health is no laughing matter and should be closely monitored. After Halloween night is over, limit sweet snacks to after dinner time. The saliva produced during a meal can assist in washing away some of that sugary residue. Also, it is advised to keep candy out of their lunchboxes and avoid midday candy snacking.
When in doubt, stick to the classics. Chocolate may be the lesser of the evils when it comes to Halloween candy, plus it is popular with the kiddos. If you can choose dark chocolate, that’s even better. It doesn’t hurt that dark chocolate is loaded with powerful antioxidants as well. “Dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate,” and is “One of the better candies because it washes off your teeth easier than other types of candy,” says Dr. Ferraz- Dougherty.
As always, parents should instill healthy oral hygiene habits in their children at an early age. The best defense when it comes to cavities, tooth decay and enamel erosion is teaching your kids the importance of brushing their teeth twice a day and flossing, especially at night and after meals.
Candy aside, familiarizing your kids with foods that are rich in micronutrients like vitamin A, B1, C and E, iron, folate and phosphorous can significantly decrease their chances of getting gum disease later on in life. Fill their plates and bellies with foods like leafy greens, tomatoes and blueberries to snack on. All of these foods help to improve oral health.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.