It's that time of the year again: pumpkins are displayed on porches, kids are excitedly picking out costumes, and retailers are advertising countless types of candy. Halloween is right around the corner. While children daydream about filling their baskets with candy on that special night, parents often dread the inevitable sugar high that follows trick-or-treating. However, what parents less commonly consider is just how detrimental the holiday can be for their children's teeth. How can you help ensure that your child survives candy season without decay? Consider the following tips:
Go for the dark chocolate. Do you have a chocolate lover on your hands? If so, that might not be a bad thing! While sugar-loaded milk chocolate isn't a mouth-friendly food, its counterpart-- dark chocolate-- is actually good for the teeth. Studies have shown that compounds in the cocoa bean husk have anti-bacterial properties which can help fight against dental plaque. Plaque, of course, is the sticky film that coats the teeth and produces decay-causing bacteria. So, encourage your little monster or goblin to sift through his Halloween stash and find the dark chocolate candy bars. Of course, just like everything else, moderation is key.
Consider alternatives to candy. At first, your kids might balk at the idea: a Halloween without candy? Once the tradition is established, though, kids often look forward to the alternative treats and prizes that take the place of candy. This can work in two ways. First, your kids can trick-or-treat at neighbors' homes that you know also give away candy alternatives: think bouncy balls, glow sticks, miniature toys, stickers, and temporary tattoos. Alternatively, you can offer your kids a "buy back" program. That is, when they return from trick-or-treating with overflowing buckets of candy, you can "buy" the candy from them-- either by offering them real money or the alternative goodies mentioned above.
Be on the lookout for other culprits. Most parents are aware of the familiar cavity-causing culprits in their children's Halloween buckets: lollipops, candy corn, gum, candy bars, and countless other sugar-loaded treats. What parents less often consider, however, are the refined sugars that are also popular during the holiday season. Cupcakes and other seasonal goodies-- think eggnog and those delicious flavored beverages from the local coffee shop-- are often loaded with refined sugars that can wreak havoc on the teeth of children and parents alike.
Remember basic oral hygiene. Practicing good oral hygiene techniques is important regardless of what time of year it is. However, it becomes even more critical during the holiday season, when kids are more likely to indulge in sweet treats. The longer food particles sit on the teeth, the more likely they are to lead to decay. So, after your child taste tests his favorite candy in his Halloween bucket, encourage him to brush his teeth. If you're out and about without access to a toothbrush, swishing with water is an excellent alternative.
It's all about moderation. Should you forbid your kid from eating candy throughout her entire childhood? Of course not. Instead, focus on moderation. By encouraging your child to eat healthy meals throughout the day, she will be less likely to overindulge in sugary treats. To give her favorite chocolate candies a longer shelf life, stick them in the freezer; that way, she'll know that she has extra time to enjoy them and won't be tempted to eat them all in one sitting.
Remember: a major component of maintaining your children's oral health during the holiday season and year-round is making sure that they visit the dentist for regular cleanings and check-ups. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us today!