The month of October has arrived, and with that comes fall, pumpkins and, most importantly, Halloween! To children all over the country, Halloween really means Halloween candy. Trick-or-treating for sweet delights and coming home with a bag full of candy is a dream come true for most kids—but for parents, it means sugar and lots of it, which can be damaging to children’s teeth. How can you make sure that your kid is enjoying Halloween and keeping his or her teeth in tip-top shape? Follow these healthy Halloween tips to avoid scary dental problems.
Set specific candy consumption times
A good idea for keeping your kid’s teeth healthy is to set certain times during the day to consume candy, as continual exposure to sugar throughout the day can be detrimental to teeth. Candy time should not be close to bedtime—the best time for eating sweet treats is post-meal when saliva levels in the mouth are high, because this will help wash away sugar and fight bacteria. Also, make sure your children follow up any candy consumption with proper brushing and flossing techniques. If nothing else, have them drink a glass of water post-candy to help wash residual sugars from the teeth.
Agree on how much candy is allowed—and keep the bag
Once you’ve decided when you will allow your child to consume candy, set a limit on a specific amount. This is not only for dental reasons, but for overall health. You can also avoid arguments or debates at snack time if your child knows in advance how many pieces are allowed. Be sure to keep your child’s bag of Halloween treats so you can dole out the correct amount at the proper times and avoid late-night candy-sneaking or snacking outside agreed-upon snack times.
Know which candy is best for teeth, and which is worst
Sugar-free candy is best for teeth—it lacks sugars that bond with bacteria in the mouth, producing acids that greatly contribute to tooth decay. Sugar-free gum can actually help prevent cavities by dislodging food particles from in-between teeth and stimulating saliva production. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is another better candy choice. It melts quickly in the mouth, reducing tooth exposure time to sugar, and is typically easily chewable. Avoid chocolate with hard or chewy fillings, such as nuts or caramel.
Be sure to avoid sour candies, such as Sour Patch Kids, as these highly acidic candies break down tooth enamel quickly. You will also want to steer clear of chewy or sticky treats like taffy or gummies. These get easily stuck in teeth crevices and are hard to dislodge, which can lead to tooth decay. Hard candies, such as lollipops, can also be dangerous to teeth. Children tend to either slowly consume them, exposing their teeth to sugar over long periods of time, or bite down on them, which can crack or chip teeth.
Have alternatives to candy ready
If you’re adamant that your children not consume candy at Halloween, then you need to have a system in place to reward your kids with something other than sweets. This way, they can be healthy without having to miss out on Halloween fun. One popular alternative is to have children trade in a certain number or type of candy for different toys or items they may want.
All children look forward to Halloween candy—and you can too with these Halloween tips for parents that will help ensure your child’s teeth are healthy year-round.