Candy corn, candy apples, gummies, and chocolate, oh my! Halloween is just around the corner and while your little ladybugs, pumpkins, princesses, superheroes, zombies, and ghosts want to load up on candy and sweet treats, Dr. Swords wants to remind parents that Halloween is a good time to teach your children good oral health habits without depriving them of their trick-or-treating goodies. Here are some Halloween tips to promote happy, healthy smiles and a few ideas of what to do with all that leftover candy.
Talk to kids about sweets and their teeth.
Remind your children that eating too many sweets can cause cavities. Instead of saying that candy is bad, let your children know that eating excessive amounts of candy and sweet treats is not good for their teeth. This will help your kids learn that what they eat affects their oral health and that they have control over their diets.
Enjoy treats in moderation.
Instead of allowing your children to dig into their Halloween treats whenever they wish, parents should set a “treat time” that teaches kids to eat sweets in moderation. And avoid grazing on candy throughout the day as this reduces the amount of time sugars are in the mouth, decreasing the chance of tooth decay.
Rinse your mouth after eating candy.
Encourage your kids to drink lots of water while sampling their treats. This will help wash away sugar, reducing contact with the enamel. It is also important to reinforce good oral hygiene habits after eating Halloween candy and other sweets. If your child is under the age of 8, he or she may need help brushing their teeth. After this age, parents should continue to supervise their kids when brushing to be sure they are doing a good job.
Eat candy with your meals.
Saliva is the mouth’s best defense against tooth decay. The mouth produces more saliva during mealtime, which helps neutralize acids, wash away bacteria and particles, and reduce the amount of sugar that remains on your teeth.
Not all candy is created equal.
Try to avoid or limit hard candies like jawbreakers or lollipops that stay in your mouth for prolonged periods of time. The same goes for chewy candies like taffy and caramel that can stick to, and in between the teeth. The longer candy is contact with the teeth, the more acid that is produced by bacteria in the mouth, increasing the risk for developing tooth decay. And remember, crunchy, sticky, chewy, and gooey candies can damage your braces. So if you are undergoing orthodontic treatment, you should stay away from sweet treats that can potentially break brackets and wires.
Use your leftover candy to bake, create, and educate.
Grab your apron and leftover chocolate and whip up a decadent dessert—cookies, brownies, cupcakes, etc. Make a candy mosaic or edible jewelry. Or use treats to teach kids, and they won’t even realize they’re learning. Younger children can practice patterns, colors, counting, and shapes, while more experienced trick-or-treaters can brush up on their math skills.
It is just the beginning of the sweets and treats season. At Swords Family Dentistry in McKinney, Texas, we want our young patients to enjoy this fun time of year, but we also want our young patients to learn how to care for their teeth so they can have smiles they can be proud of for the rest of their lives. And remember, daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and regular dental visits are the best way to keep teeth healthy and free of cavities!