Halloween is finally here. For many children, this is one of the most enjoyable holidays of the year, and for good reason. Who doesn’t want to get dressed up in costumes and come home with a bag full of candy? If you’re going to take your kids trick-or-treating this year, it’s important to have a plan for preventing all that candy from damaging your children’s teeth.
Our family dentists have a few tips that will help you minimize cavities for your kids during this Halloween season. This advice is great for adults to follow as well. After all, it’s only natural for parents to sample a few of the treats their children bring home after trick-or-treating.
Choose Your Candy Wisely
Not all candy will have the same impact on your children’s teeth. Some items are definitely worse than others from an oral health perspective. You should limit your children’s consumption of the following:
- Hard candies
- Sticky candies
- Chewy candies such as taffy, caramel or gummy bears
- Sour candies
Hard candy is supposed to dissolve in your mouth slowly, and can potentially result in a chipped or cracked tooth if your child tries to bite it. Sticky and chewy candies get caught in the grooves between your teeth longer than other items, which increases the risk of decay. Sour candy is very acidic and can damage tooth enamel (the outer protective layer of your teeth).
It’s always a good idea to sort through the candy your kids receive before they consume it. This gives you an opportunity to either remove these harmful items entirely or to reduce the amount of hard, sour, sticky and chewy candies that your children will eat. Instead, allow your kids to enjoy treats that are less damaging to their teeth, such as:
- Peanut butter cups
- Cookies and cup cakes
Limit Candy Consumption to Mealtimes
You’ll want to limit the frequency of candy binging. If your kids are allowed to eat candy all day, it will increase the exposure of sugar to your children’s teeth, providing more opportunities for this sugar to cause decay. Instead, the best time to let your kids consume candy is shortly after a meal.
Limiting candy to mealtimes provides the following benefits:
- Increased saliva production during meals helps neutralize the acids produced by sugar and other bacteria, and it will more effectively rinse sugar particles from your teeth
- Your kids will most likely to eat less candy after a meal since they won’t be as hungry
Increase Water Consumption and Limit Sugary Drinks
It’s always a good idea to balance the increase of candy consumption with an overall reduction of daily sugar intake. The easiest way to accomplish this goal is to reduce (or ideally to eliminate entirely) the consumption of sugary drinks, such as:
- Fruit juices
- Iced tea and lemonade
- Flavored water
- Sports drinks
You should replace these beverages with water. In addition, encourage your kids to drink a glass of water right after eating candy since this will help rinse the sugar from their teeth. If possible, have your children drink fluoridated water, which has been proven to help prevent tooth decay.
Brush and Floss after Eating Candy
The importance of maintaining good oral hygiene practices after Halloween can’t be overstated. This is one of the most effective ways to limit the damage caused by candy. In addition to the regular schedule of brushing twice daily and flossing once a day, have your children brush and floss after eating their Halloween candy. This will help remove the sugar from the surface of their teeth right away.
There may be times when brushing after eating Halloween candy simply isn’t possible. In these situations, have your kids chew sugarless gum after consuming their candy. This will stimulate saliva production, making it easier to rinse the sugar off your children’s teeth. Make sure you give them sugarless gum containing the ADA seal.
Set Limits on the Quantity of Candy Your Kids Eat
Your kids may come home with a bucket full of candy, but that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to eat all of it. You can set limits on the quantity and frequency of candy they eat. Consider the following guidelines:
- Set a maximum number of pieces of candy your kids are allowed to eat per day
- Limit candy consumption to once per day
- Set a time limit on this candy consumption (ideally no more than a few weeks) and discard (or give away) the remainder of the Halloween candy after this time period
Another good approach is to establish a total number of pieces of candy your kids can eat after Halloween. Then, let them pick their favorite items to keep and discard (or give away) the rest. Make sure you sort through the candy before letting your children pick their favorites to limit the number of harmful items listed above (sticky candies, hard candies, etc.).
Visit the Dentist after Halloween
It’s always a good idea to schedule a dental cleaning for late November. This will allow our dentists to remove any plaque and tartar building up from Halloween candy before cavities start to develop.
Schedule an Appointment
If you would like to schedule your child’s post-Halloween dental cleaning, please call 703-527-1020 for an appointment at Arlington Dental Aesthetics or 703-327-7705 for an appointment at South Riding Smiles. We serve children and adults in Arlington, South Riding and the surrounding areas of Northern Virginia.