Fall is an exciting time for spooky costumes, fall festivals, and all kinds of sweet treats loved by children of all ages! Parents don’t want to spoil their kids’ fun, but there is still a responsibility to protect their health, including their teeth.
Bacteria loves sugar, too, so Halloween candy and other treats lead to an increase of acid in the mouth. This acidic waste damages tooth enamel which leads to cavities if not removed quickly and often.
Here are 12 Halloween dental tips for families to deal with all the festivities without eliminating all the fun! The first thing every family needs is a plan in place to help protect teeth.
12 Halloween Dental Tips:
#1 – Sort the Treats Right Away
After trick or treating, everyone in the family (yes, that means you too, Mom and Dad!) meets back at home and goes through the treats. First, this allows for inspections to double-check for dangerous objects. Then, candy is sorted into hard candies, sticky candies, non-candy treats, and everything else.
Let the kids know that the best Halloween candy for your teeth is sugar-free candy and candy with nuts (unless they currently have braces on). Dentists disagree on whether chocolate is safer than eating sticky or hard candies. So it should be eaten in moderation.
#2 – Claim the Top 15-20 Pieces
Everyone should pick an assortment of their personal favorites, about 15-20 pieces. The rest is given away or thrown away (yes, you can do that!). Some communities sponsor candy buyback programs where children can exchange their candy for non-candy treats or money. Kids love candy but they like money even more! It’s easy to search for a Halloween candy buyback near you. Halloween Candy Buyback.
#3 – Eliminate the Bowl of Candy on a Table
Eating candy throughout the day leads to the continuous presence of tooth-destroying acid and bacteria on teeth. So, don’t have a bowl full of candy sitting on the table 24/7.
#4 – Eat the Candy at Meals or Shortly After Eating
It’s best to eat sweets with a meal or right after eating. The reason for this is the saliva produced when you eat cancels out acids in your mouth. It also rinses food particles away, including the candy, so it doesn’t stay on your teeth. So, you could say that every family member can bring 1-2 pieces of candy to meals.
To protect your teeth from cavity-causing bacteria, serve dessert and then a cheese course. Cheese counters the acids from sugary food by restoring the natural pH levels of your mouth. It also has casein phosphate, a teeth and bone-strengthening compound.
#5 – Choose the Candy You Eat Carefully
Educate your children about the worst Halloween candy for their teeth. One of those is hard candy. Hard candy in your mouth leads to tooth decay. And it doesn’t take long for the damage to begin: within 20 seconds of eating candy, the sugar combines with the bacteria normally in your mouth to form an acid that damages teeth. As time goes on, this acid will wear away at the layers in your enamel, eventually leading to a cavity.
Also, sticky candies do just that: stick to your teeth. They take longer to get washed away with saliva so tooth decay is a danger. Choose softer candy that is eaten and swallowed quickly. Sour candies and lollipops should also be avoided. The acid in these candies is harmful to tooth enamel and breaks it down quickly.
#6 – Drink Water
Water is good for everything in your body and your teeth will benefit from more, too. It will wash away bits of candy, and other foods, from between your teeth. Water also rinses away the bacteria that can naturally build up in your mouth. Fluoridated water is even better to prevent tooth decay. Increasing your water intake will only help after a season of candy!
#7 – Avoid Sugary Drinks
Soda, flavored waters, sports drinks, and energy drinks are not a substitute for water, no matter how much the kids try to convince you. They contain sugar which leads to tooth decay. Parents can help by NOT stocking the fridge with these drinks. Provide lots of water instead. Sparkling water is a great substitute if it’s the bubbles that your kids want.
#8 – Brush More Frequently
During candy season, brush 1-2 additional times than you normally brush. It can’t hurt and certainly can help keep the sugar and resulting bacteria/acid off of your teeth. For best oral hygiene, use an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste and brush for at least two minutes. Don’t forget to change your toothbrush every three to four months. If the bristles are frayed and worn, replace your toothbrush sooner if you need to. Brushing with a worn-out toothbrush won’t accomplish what you want. Also, electric toothbrushes are the most effective type of toothbrush to use to help keep your teeth as clean as possible.
Here’s another tip: buy a supply of disposable toothbrushes. Family members may not have time to stop at home and brush thirty minutes after enjoying their candy. Pass out the disposables in the morning if you know the kids will be eating candy during the day and they have a busy schedule. Get small tubes of toothpaste, too, for backpacks. Encourage everyone in the family to brush even though they are away from home.
#9 – Floss!
Yes, most people hate to floss, but it is an important part of your home dental care plan. Add an additional flossing session a day during candy season. Bacteria between the teeth will be removed as well as plaque and particles of food. Floss will help protect your gums by reaching and clearing away bacteria under the gumline.
#10 – Chew Gum. Yes, Really
Get an ADA-approved gum for the family and pass a piece out after meals. Instruct everyone to chew it for 20 minutes because it increases the flow of saliva in your mouth. This helps wash food and acid away from teeth. Your kids will love this!
#11 – Continue to Eat Healthy Meals
It’s tempting to add cookies, cakes, cupcakes, and other sweet treats to meals and snacks during this time of year. Stick with a healthy balance of foods throughout the year. Emphasize to your family that the Halloween candy is a special treat they can enjoy as long as they continue to eat healthy.
Teach kids to pick up a piece of fruit instead of candy. Whoever cooks in your home can use fresh fruit and less sugar or use sugar substitutes to add sweetness to desserts. Making ice cream at home can become a family activity and you can substitute bananas for the sweetness and creamy texture. Adding coconut and peanut butter makes any treat taste great while lowering sugar content.
#12 – Don’t Skip Any Dentist Visits
Fall is a busy time of year, but don’t skip any routine dental cleanings and checkups. Set a good example for your kids that they will follow for the rest of their lives. Their teeth will thank you!
Halloween Can Still Be Fun and Tooth-Friendly!
It does take planning and some education for your kids but it will be worth it throughout the holiday season. With Halloween candy, sweet desserts at parties, more candy at Thanksgiving, and then the end-of-the-year holidays full of cakes, pies, and candies, it takes vigilance to keep teeth protected. With these dental tips for Halloween, you and your family can enjoy the holiday and still keep teeth protected.
Here at TLC Dental Center, our caring and experienced team understands that and will work with you to keep your family’s teeth healthy and cavity-free! Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.