10:50 AM

Take the Candy, Leave the Cavities

By Dr. John Luther, Chief Dental Officer, DentaQuest

It’s that spooky time of year again.

Halloween is just around the corner and children are counting down the days until they can dress up, knock on doors and load up their candy supply. When it comes to trick-or-treating, the treats can actually be the biggest trick of all.

We want our children to enjoy the scary fun of Halloween, but we don’t want to be paying for it in dental problems down the road. Sugar is a major cause of tooth decay and cavities. After candy is consumed, sugar and plaque lurk in the crevices of your child’s teeth. If this is not removed by careful brushing, bacteria in the mouth will feed on the sugars and turn them into acid which, over time, wears away the protective enamel, making teeth vulnerable to decay. Tooth decay ultimately leads to cavities.

Parents can help their kids enjoy Halloween by moderating the amount of candy consumed and limiting the amount of time sugar stays in contact with their children’s teeth. Below are a few helpful tricks to preserve you child’s smile this year:

Inspect your children’s Halloween loot before they dive in. Hard candies, like lollipops, can cause chipped teeth, choking, and the promotion of tooth decay, since they sit in the mouth for a long period of time, allowing sugars to completely coat the teeth and mouth.

Avoid sticky candies like gummy fruit snacks. It is hard for saliva to wash away the sticky sugars, so they stay in the crevices of the teeth for long periods of time, creating plaque buildup and eventually cavities. It takes a lot of brushing to rid the mouth of buildup from gummy fruit snacks or caramels.

Look for Halloween treats that can be eaten quickly. Candy like miniature chocolate bars dissolve completely and quickly so the sugar spends less time in your child’s mouth.

Eat a small serving. It is better for your child to eat a small serving of candy in one sitting than to snack all afternoon. The goal is to minimize the amount of time sugar stays in contact with teeth. Encourage your child to follow consumption of candy with a glass of water and thorough tooth brushing.

Reducing candy and sugar consumption is good advice year-round, for both children and adults. Make good oral health habits a family activity; brush at least twice a day, floss, and visit your dentist every six months. Don’t forget to follow up meals with a glass of water, which counteracts the effects of sugary foods. This way, cavity-causing sugars won’t stick around on your children’s or your teeth long after Halloween is over.