Although Halloween can be a spooky time, it doesn’t have to be a nightmare for oral health. These Halloween Dental Health tips will help ensure that you and your kids have a healthy, cavity-free Halloween that won’t make the dentist scream. Remember the message that “candy is bad”, is misguided. Kids already know is not true, but the message that candy and other sweet treats, if eaten in excess, can lead to cavities provides a lifelong lesson.
Halloween is a great time for parents to think about their children’s teeth, but oral health should be a year-round concern. Regularly encourage good oral health habits with your children, including flossing daily, brushing at least twice a day, and visiting the dentist regularly. That way you’ll ensure the sugary villains don’t stick around on your children’s teeth long after Halloween is over.
When buying candy for Halloween, look for treats that can be eaten quickly, like miniature candy bars. When you get home from trick-or-treating, discard hard or sticky candies like sugared fruit snacks, caramels or lollipops, as they increase the period of time in which teeth are exposed to sugar. Encourage your child to eat a small amount of candy in one sitting followed by a glass of water and thorough tooth brushing. It is not a good idea to allow your child to graze on candy as this will increase the amount of time sugar comes in contact with teeth.
Although sweets are blamed for much tooth decay, all foods — even healthy alternatives to candy, such as fruit and nuts — can promote tooth decay if eaten in excess. Children (like adults) should eat all foods in moderation. Read nutrition labels to avoid foods and drinks loaded with sugar, fructose, and other sweeteners.
Drinking water helps clean the teeth and gums and minimizes the build-up of bacteria. Make sure you and your kids drink plenty of water after eating candy. Drinking fluoridated water can help prevent tooth decay. If you choose bottled water, look for kinds that are fluoridated. Drinking plenty of water and keeping well hydrated has a number of health benefits for your entire body. In your mouth, it keeps sensitive tissues moist, and promotes the healthful action of saliva. Saliva not only buffers acids, it also aids digestion, helps the mouth fight germs, and even has a role in protecting the teeth from decay.
Be picky if it’s sticky. From gummy worms to caramels, sticky candies are plentiful during Halloween. These soft candies tend to stick to the teeth and linger long after the treatment has been enjoyed. To reduce dental damage, enjoy one piece at a time, and make sure your child chews it fully. It is a good idea to incorporate these treats into mealtime so that hard foods, such as carrot sticks or almonds, can help to dislodge the sticky treats from crevices in the teeth. This candy is harder to remove and may stay longer on your teeth, which gives that cavity-causing bacteria more time to work.
Chocolate which is good because it’s also the most popular kind of candy handed out on Halloween. Chocolate is one of the better candies because it washes off your teeth easier than other types of candy. Dark chocolate also has less sugar than milk chocolate. And calcium could help protect tooth enamel. However, chocolate with fillings, such as caramel and nuts, is a lot more harmful for teeth than the plain variety.
Hard candies are also ones to watch on Halloween. They can actually break your teeth if you’re not careful. You also tend to keep these kinds of candies in your mouth for longer periods of time so the sugar is getting in your saliva and washing over your teeth. Chewy, sticky treats are particularly damaging because they are high in sugar, spend a prolonged amount of time stuck to teeth, and are more difficult for saliva to break down.
Powdery candy-like Pixie Stix, dissolves quickly in the mouth and doesn’t require chewing, they contain nothing but sugar and can lead to cavities by changing the mouth’s PH and giving bacteria straight sugar to eat. But powdery candy dissolves quickly and doesn’t stick to the teeth.
You might want to pass on things that make you pucker – especially if they are sticky and coated in sugar. Sour candy can be very acidic. That acidity can weaken and damage the hard outer shell of your teeth, making your teeth more vulnerable to cavities. Sour candy is so acidic it can actually dissolve tooth enamel directly on contact. Similar to an ice cube that’s been left on the counter, the acid in sour candy can melt your teeth. Do citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, etc.) pose the same risk as sour candies? No, since each type of fruit usually contains only one kind of acid, which varies (citric, malic, tartaric).
Have some floss handy if you’re enjoying one of these fall favorites. Popcorn is yummy, but the hulls have been known to cause many a problem in people’s mouths. Because the hull is concave-shaped, it easily gets trapped under the gums against the side of the tooth. It acts as an irritant and often results in an acute localized infection. Popcorn Balls are also sticky, sugary, and can be hard.
Sugar-free foods don’t contain sugar that can feed on the bacteria in the mouth and produce decay-causing acids. Gum and candy with xylitol may actually protect teeth by reducing the acids produced by bacteria and increasing saliva to rinse away excess sugars and acids. Surprisingly, one of the safest Halloween treats to enjoy is gum. Although it lingers in the mouth, gum stimulates extra saliva production, which naturally rinses the mouth and keeps plaque-causing bacteria at bay.
Chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals helps reduce tooth decay, because increased saliva flow helps wash out food and neutralize the acid produced by bacteria. You might even want to think about giving sugarless gum out as a treat instead of candy,. Find one with the ADA Seal.
Whether waxed or unwaxed, flavored or unflavored, wide or regular size, floss of any type helps clean and remove plaque. Here are some tips about the characteristics of different types of flosses:
1. Wide floss, also known as dental tape, maybe a better choice for people (and vampires) with bridgework. Dental tape also is recommended when people have wider-than-average spaces between their teeth.
2. Waxed floss can be easier to slide between closely spaced teeth.
3. Unwaxed floss will squeak against cleaned teeth, indicating plaque has been removed.
4. Bonded unwaxed floss does not fray as easily as regular unwaxed floss, but does tear more than waxed floss.
Which type you use depends upon your personal preference and dentist’s recommendations.
Do not substitute waterpicks for brushing and flossing. Unlike flossing, waterpicks do not remove plaque. They are effective for people who have orthodontic braces, which may retain food in areas a toothbrush cannot reach.
1. Break off about 18 inches of floss, and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers (or your paw, if you’re a werewolf).
2. Wind the remaining floss around the same finger of the other hand or paw. This will take up the floss as it becomes used.
3. Hold the floss tightly (without any slack) between your two hands or paws, with about an inch of floss between them. Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle sawing motion.
4. When the floss reaches the gumline, curve it into a C-shape against the tooth or fang. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth until you feel resistance.
5. Hold the floss against the tooth. Gently scrape the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum.
Repeat this technique on all of your teeth, including the teeth in the back. Don’t worry if the first few times your gums bleed a little. As you continue to floss, your gums will get healthier and stronger. Before you know it, you’ll have a healthy set of teeth and be ready for a night out on the town.
Information courtesy of the Academy of General Dentistry
Halloween is one of the most sugary days of the year. And, it’s just the beginning of the sweets and treats season. For the next couple of months, there will be no shortage of candies, cakes, and cookies, at school, at home and at parties and gatherings. With all that extra sugar, it is even more important to guard against the evils of tooth decay and promote Halloween Dental Health.
So after chowing down on those Halloween treats, be sure to schedule some face time in front of the mirror with your kids to make sure they floss & brush their teeth. After eating sweets that can stick to teeth, it’s important to get rid of those cavity-causing creeps as soon as possible. Swishing a little water between the candy popping can’t hurt either. Halloween is a great opportunity to teach Halloween Dental Health and to reinforce the importance of a diligent daily health regimen – for parents & children.