Fun Facts and (Dental) Tips for Halloween!
Tonight is the night! Most children’s Halloween dreams – getting lots (and LOTS) of candy – can be a parent’s worst nightmare! But don’t let Halloween scare you. Pediatric dental experts say Halloween can be a time to teach your children good oral health habits for life, without depriving them of Halloween treats (think moderation). Here are five “tricks” for healthy teeth.
1. Candy vs. Cavities – Don’t Make Kids Choose
Denying children the Halloween experience can send the wrong message – deprivation – and make candy seem even more irresistible. They may end up sneaking sweets or eating too much candy once they’re out on their own. Instead, let them have the joy of Halloween in all its gooey goodness and the experience of going to a party or trick-or-treating.
2. Sort it Out
After your children get back from trick-or-treating or a party, go through their bags of Halloween candy together. Ask them to each pick the 15 or so (whatever number you decide, based on factors such as age) treats they want the most. Encourage your child to choose the healthier treats and avoid sour, chewy, and hard candies like jawbreakers or caramels. Sour candies are high in acidity, which erodes tooth enamel. Sticky or chewy candy leaves sugars directly on the teeth for prolonged periods. And hard candies cannot only be a choking hazard for young children, but they can cause tooth damage.
This can also be a good time to teach (or remind) children that sugar isn’t the only thing that can lead to cavities. Snacks such as pretzels, with starches that stay in the mouth longer, can also lead to cavities, as can fruit juices.
Letting children help to decide what is a reasonable amount of candy to keep has benefits beyond good oral health, and helps to teach children two important lessons:
~ How to control their diets
~ That what they eat relates to oral health, not just physical health
3. Limit Availability – Set a Treat Time
Candy should be enjoyed, but moderation is important. With your child, set a time of day to eat Halloween candy. This ritual “treat time” may last long after Halloween and help promote healthy thinking about treats:
~ Children learn that eating sweets shouldn’t be an all-day feast. Moderation is key.
~ Knowing they have a specific sweet time can help make children less inclined to think about eating sweets at other times of the day.
Put the unpicked treats out of sight. You can donate them to a food bank or find a dentist who participates in the annual Halloween Candy Buy Back program, which donates candy to Operation Gratitude.
4. Set Up a Brushing Schedule and Keep Teeth Brushing Fun
No matter when treat time is, it’s crucial to brush soon after. This is much healthier than allowing your child’s teeth to be continuously exposed to sugary or acidic treats throughout the day. If treat time is nighttime, for example, brushing and flossing teeth before bed will help sweep away any leftover sweets. It is recommended that until a child is 7 or 8 years old, a parent should help with teeth brushing, not simply supervise. But even after age 8, parents should supervise brushing. That includes friendly reminders to older children to brush and floss until they get to high school, (when it should be a habit).
Keep teeth brushing fun! Why not make Halloween an occasion for getting your child a new toothbrush? Dentists say that when children like the toothbrushes, they are more apt to enjoy brushing. Children can choose from a variety of kid-sized brushes that feature cartoon characters and colorful designs.
5. Use Plaque Disclosing Tablets, Swabs, or Solution
Some dentists use ”disclosing tablets” to spot bacterial plaque on teeth. These chewable tablets temporarily stain the plaque that builds up on teeth. You can use plaque disclosing tablets, solution, swabs, and floss to show children how effectively they are removing the plaque from their teeth by brushing and flossing. Plaque disclosing products (tablets, solution, swabs, and floss) are available over the counter and online.
Though this Halloween is a great opportunity to start employing these practices, don’t stop there! Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season and is the beginning of the sweet season. For children and adults alike, the next couple of months will more than likely include increased consumption of sweets…and a higher risk for cavities. But the holidays should be a time of fun, friends, and family. Use Halloween as an opportunity to teach children good dental habits, but continue to follow these recommendations throughout the year.
Remember, good oral health is a major factor in overall health…developing good dental hygiene habits will help ensure a long and healthy life for both you and your children. From all of us here at McGann Facial Design…Happy Halloween!