Halloween is the time of candies and sweets. That can be a real nightmare for parents that try to keep their kids teeth healthy, especially if there is a family history of tooth decay.
Depriving the children from the Halloween experience is not the answer. Making the sweets a “forbidden fruit” may make them so more attractive and could lead to sneaking candy in or pigging out once there is nobody that controls.
I think this time of the year is a good time to teach kids responsibility and good oral health habits. Here are a few tips:
1. Let your kids have fun and enjoy trick-or-treating or a Halloween party, but don’t let them choose the treats on their own. After the event get through the bags of Halloween candy together as a family and let the kids pick a limited number of treats they want to keep.
Get the rest of the sweets out of sight. If you can’t stand the idea to throw them away donate them to a food bank or freeze them.
2. This is a great opportunity to teach about the causes of cavities. Stress moderation! High frequency of sweet snacks and drinks are main contributors, but even frequent snacks of starchy foods can lead to tooth decay.
3. Set a time of day to eat the Halloween candy. Teach that eating sweets is a treat not an all day activity.
4. Have your kids eat their sweet treats as a dessert, not a snack in between meals. Drink lots of water not sodas, juices, and sports drinks.
5. Set up a brushing schedule! 2 minutes twice a day is the recommended way to go. Make sure your kids use a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. Parents and caregivers should help or watch over their kids’ tooth brushing abilities until they’re at least 8-years-old.
6. Try sugar free gum as a substitute for candy. Chewing gum stimulates saliva which neutralizes the cavity producing acids. A sugarfree gum with xylitol as a sweetener will also kill bacteria.
7. Last not least make sure your kids have regular dental checkups. We will check for cavities and discuss your child’s specific caries risk.
The Halloween message is not that candy and sweets are evil, but you kids need to understand that excessive snacking can cause cavities. Good and healthy habits allow you to enjoy sweets as a treat and keep a bright smile! Look for more recommendations at aapd.org and 2min2x.org.
Dietmar Kennel DDS