Halloween might be many kids’ favorite holiday, but for your teeth, it can be a real nightmare. Whether you’re trick-or-treating with your little one or just handing out candy to the neighborhood kids, following these important tips can minimize the damage to your children’s teeth and help maintain their overall oral health.
Avoid Foods that Stick
Okay, we understand – nobody wants to be the parent handing out carrot sticks and hummus on Halloween. But when it comes to candy, not all varieties are created equal. Stay away from sticky candies that linger in your mouth, like taffy or caramels, which can continue to eat away at enamel even after the majority of the food has been swallowed. Try to limit hard candies, like jolly ranchers, lollipops, and jawbreakers; even if your child doesn’t bite down on the candy, which can chip teeth, these candies typically take longer to consume, meaning teeth are subjected to the sugars and acids for a longer period of time. Although no candy is good candy, you can minimize the damage done to young mouths by avoiding the worst culprits of tooth decay.
Choose Sugar-Free Gum
Just like suckers or lollipops, gum lingers in your mouth for an extended period of time, exposing your teeth to sugars. While chewing gum isn’t inherently bad, keeping a sugary gum in your mouth for a while can be just as damaging as eating candy. Many gums are made sugar-free and taste comparable to their sugary counterparts, and may be a good alternative to candy when handing out sweets to trick-or-treaters. Just make sure the kids are old enough to know not to swallow the gum!
Eat Candy with Meals
Although it’s difficult to keep from snacking as you go, try to convince your children to wait until they’ve had a meal to consume their holiday treats. Keeping candy snacks to meal times can limit the amount of sugar that stays in your mouth. This is because your mouth produces more saliva while you’re eating, which naturally wipes away acids, bacteria, and sugar from your teeth. Additionally, encourage your children to brush and floss their teeth shortly after dessert to remove any remaining particles that could cause gradual damage to enamel.
Don’t Extend the Holiday
If you live in a densely populated neighborhood, your child will likely pick up more candy than they could possibly eat, even over the course of months. It may be tempting to drag out the Halloween sweets and enjoy the fruits of trick-or-treating long after the holiday is over, but this only lengthens the sugar’s exposure to your child’s teeth. If you have a ton of leftover candy, try sending one piece with your child’s school lunch or letting them enjoy it after dinner – and brushing their teeth shortly thereafter. Teaching your children the importance of responsibility when snacking on candies can strengthen their oral hygiene and help maintain their dental health.