October 9, 2017
Hooray for Halloween! What kid doesn’t love creatively carved pumpkins lighting up porches, the fun of dressing up as a favorite character or animal, the parties and events, and, of course, the thrill of trick-or-treating on October 31st?
And, of course, there’s the candy. Lots and lots of it. And not just on the big night itself. The influx of sweets often seems to start earlier in the month. So what can parents do to ensure the kids have fun without putting their oral health on the line? The good news is there is no reason to prohibit candy altogether. In fact, this could easily backfire and cause children to crave it more. But you certainly can set limits, implement rules, and ban the worst offenders from the treat bucket.
So of all the sweets and treats you’ll encounter in the candy aisle, which ones should you pass on by and which should you toss into the cart? And why does it matter anyway, since they are pretty much all packed with sugar? It matters, because it’s not just about the amount of sugar, it’s how long the sugar stays on the teeth. And that’s all in the delivery system.
Follow this advice in this post, and you’ll be helping the dental health of not only your own children, but all the kids in the neighborhood.
Are you (or anyone in your family) due for a dental checkup? Call Thomas J. Feder, DDS of Belleville, IL at 618-219-1412.
Just Say “No” to These Sweets
Gummy worms. Taffy. Gummy bears. Jelly beans. Caramel. Kids love candy that is sticky, gooey, stretchy, or chewy, but these confections are bad news for dental health. Their texture ensures that they will work their way into the grooves and gaps of the teeth and stay there for a good long time. Wherever they choose to hang out will become a breeding ground for bacteria, which create acids that wear down the tooth enamel.
Some people buy chewy granola bars, fruit leather, packets of gummy fruit snacks, or even individual-sized boxes of raisins, thinking they are healthier alternatives to candy. Well, these present the same problems as the sticky candies listed above. So we do not recommend giving these out for Halloween either.
Colorful, fruity lollipops are a perennially popular Halloween treat. However, these are another one that do more damage to the teeth than they’re worth. When you suck on a lollipop (or any sort of hard candy), your saliva melts and mixes with the sugar. This solution coats the teeth, and is difficult to remove thoroughly. And the longer sugar stays on the teeth, the more bacteria proliferate, and the more damaging acids are produced.
Say “Yes” to These Sweets — in Moderation, of Course.
Chocolate. Oh yes, decadent and irresistible chocolate gets the green light from us. Commercially made chocolate candy does contain sugar, of course. Otherwise it wouldn’t taste good. But because it melts quickly and rinses from the teeth relatively easily, it doesn’t linger long enough to do much damage. Peanut butter cups are another good option. Avoid chocolates that contain caramel or other chewy elements. Dark chocolate is even better than milk chocolate, as it tends to contain less sugar. Did you know that cocoa beans (from which chocolate is derived) contain compounds that make tooth enamel stronger and fight bacteria? You should still eat it in small amounts — it does contain sugar, after all — but it’s becoming clear that chocolate is not without real health benefits.
Sugarless gum is another good treat to throw in those bags and plastic pumpkins. Chewing it promotes the production of saliva, which is your body’s way of keeping the mouth clean. If your kid can’t brush after consuming some of his or her candy stash, chewing a piece of sugarless gum will help.
Another idea is to skip the sweets altogether (after all, every kid in the neighborhood will be getting plenty of those) and hand out individually wrapped bags of baby carrots or cheese sticks. Some kids may even welcome a break from all the candy. Crunchy carrots are high in fiber and excellent at stimulating saliva production. Cheese gives kids a boost of enamel-strengthening calcium, and is also believed to contain other compounds that help protect the teeth from acids.
Halloween doesn’t have to be a scary time for kids’ oral health. It’s about making the right choices at the grocery store, limiting the candy at home, and, always, making sure the whole family practices good oral hygiene. To book an appointment at Thomas J. Feder, DDS, PC, fill out our convenient online contact form or call our Belleville, IL office at 618-219-1412.