Fall is on the horizon, and it won’t be long before pumpkins appear on doorsteps and children start putting together this year’s costume plans. The Halloween season brings a lot of treats, but if you aren’t careful, those trickster cavities can set in!
On average, Canadian households purchase enough candy to give three pieces to each child who rings the doorbell. If you trick or treat at 20 houses, that works out to about 60 pieces of candy — quite the haul for one night!
Most children — and their parents — aren’t very vigilant about how those sweet treats are consumed, and the result is an increased risk of cavities.
As a parent, your job is to help your child find a balance between the fun of consuming their candy and maintaining good oral hygiene habits. Wondering how to keep kids’ teeth healthy without ruining their Halloween fun? Here are our top 10 Halloween dental tips.
1. Avoid Chewy and Hard Candies
What causes cavities? Also referred to as caries or tooth decay, cavities are damaged tooth enamel that results from increased bacteria lingering in the mouth. This bacteria often increases when sugar sits on the teeth.
The longer sugar sits in a child’s mouth, the greater the risk of cavities. The best way to make sure that sugars don’t linger is to limit your child’s consumption of hard or chewy candies, such as sugary gums, caramels, gummies, jawbreakers, taffy and lollypops. These candies are problematic because they are designed to linger on your child’s teeth and in their mouth, leaving more time for the sugars to do damage.
It’s not uncommon for dentists to see an increase in broken teeth around Halloween. Hard candy is also risky because kids can chip a tooth when they bite down on it. In some cases, these candies make an existing problem worse, but, in other cases, a piece of hard candy can create a new problem.
2. Stay Away From Sugary Drinks
This one can be challenging because Halloween also means parties. But your kids are going to have enough sugary candy without adding drinks like soda and juice to the mix. Encourage them to sip on water at home and at their holiday events and save the sugar for the candy and other sweet treats they’ll want to consume.
3. Give Your Kids Sugar-Free Gum
Sugar-free gum can stimulate saliva production, helping your child’s mouth wash away unwanted sugars and plaque that might have formed from sweet treats they ate earlier in the day. It can also neutralize the acids that lead to tooth decay. Keep a pack at home and in the car so kids can freshen up their mouths immediately after a party or school event. Sugar-free gum is also a great alternative when kids are begging for a little something to satisfy a sweet tooth.
4. Opt for Dark Chocolate Candies
Chocolate is candy, but does chocolate cause cavities? Some people are surprised to discover that dark chocolate has less sugar than milk or white chocolate varieties. When possible, encourage children to eat dark chocolate candies to reduce their sugar consumption. Dark chocolate is also rich in antioxidants, another health benefit that you won’t find in other candies. Eating dark chocolate won’t prevent cavities, but it can go a long way toward reducing sugar consumption.
5. Choose the Right Time for Candy
The human body produces more saliva during and immediately after a meal. Encourage children to consume their candy after a meal, so that the increased saliva washes the sugar off their teeth faster. The less time sugar has to linger in the mouth, the less risk of cavities appearing later.
6. Drink More Water
Water has two benefits — it’s sugar-free, and drinking fluoridated water can help prevent cavities. What is fluoridated water? It’s water that has had fluoride added to it. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and prevents tooth decay. Water is also a big help in washing away the sugars that linger after a piece of candy or other sweet treats.
7. Limit Their Candy Stash
Depending on where you live, your child may end up with a bag full of candy. Rather than keeping it and allowing children to snack on their stash until it’s gone, help them pick out their favorites and then donate the rest to a food bank or other non-profit that can spread it around. If you don’t want to give it away, consider freezing some for a winter treat or re-gifting the candy in birthday party goody bags.
8. Offer an Apple After Eating Candy
Eating an apple is a great way to remove unwanted sugars from a child’s mouth. Apples are sometimes called “nature’s toothbrush” because the fibrous snack quickly and easily washes away sugars and plaque that would otherwise linger on teeth.
9. Practice Good Oral Hygiene Habits
Halloween isn’t the only time to practice good oral hygiene, but it’s a great time to renew healthy habits that might have slipped through the cracks. Working with children to brush twice a day and floss once a day ensures that they are regularly removing unwanted sugars and plaque from their teeth before it has time to damage the enamel.
10. Make Brushing Teeth Fun
Have a child who isn’t so great about brushing? It’s difficult to keep a young child focused for the two minutes they should be brushing their teeth. Keep them engaged in the brushing process by incorporating funny songs or videos. Tons of brushing videos are out there that will have them laughing around a mouth full of toothpaste. There are also oral hygiene apps available to help entertain and educate children on the importance of good oral hygiene.
The key is for parents to be involved in a child’s oral hygiene routine. Most children don’t understand the proper technique for brushing until they’re 7 or 8 years old, so failure to monitor and encourage proper habits can lead to cavities at a young age.
Schedule a Checkup at Dental Choice
When it comes down to keeping kids’ teeth healthy around Halloween, remember: moderation is key. Your child will have sweet treats to eat, so it’s a parent’s job to moderate what they consume and when they consume it. The fall is a busy time for families, and it can be tempting to push regular dental visits back in favor of a later, more convenient date. But you shouldn’t put it off!
If your child is due for a dental checkup or you suspect a problem with their teeth, schedule a checkup right away.