Today's guest blogger is Connie Killian, DMD, a national spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. She is in private practice in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Killian is also an Adjunct Associate Professor of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania and is an attending Pediatric Dentist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Halloween is one of the most anticipated holidays of the year for kids, and although it's spooky, it doesn't need to be scary for little teeth. Each year, Americans spend nearly $9 billion on candy, and approximately 41 million trick-or-treating children across the country will collect a large portion of those goodies. When enjoying treats this year, remember the best trick to scare away "mouth monsters," (the bacteria that cause cavities) is moderation and proper oral hygiene.
Everything In Moderation
You probably know that candy can be harmful to teeth because of the sugar it contains. But candy isn't the only treat that contains sugar. This sneaky substance is also found in many other foods. Hidden sugars such as glucose, fructose and honey — commonly found in cereal bars, flavored yogurts, fruit bars, pureed fruit pouches and juices — can be just as destructive on children's teeth.
Because it's not realistic to avoid sugar altogether, be sure to practice moderation. The longer teeth are exposed to sugar, the longer cavity-causing bacteria have to feed on them. So rather than snacking on small sugary treats all through the day, it's better to have a snack of these treats in a short period of time and then follow with plenty of water to dislodge any particles that can get stuck in the teeth. Also, before trick-or-treating, ensure that your children eat a well-balanced meal to reduce chances they will fill up on empty calories and sugar.
Not All Candy Is Created Equal
Not all sweets have the same effect on little teeth. Sweets to avoid include chewy, sticky candies that get stuck in the grooves of teeth, such as gummies, caramels and sour candies. Sour candies also have a high acidity content, which breaks down enamel and leaves little teeth prone to cavities. These candies could also dislodge fillings, crowns and orthodontic appliances. Better choices include treats like chocolate that melt and leave the mouth quickly. The best candy choices are sugar-free gum and dark chocolate. In fact, dark chocolate contains antioxidants that can inhibit bacteria from sticking to teeth, helping to fight gum infections and tooth decay.
Unique Halloween Tricks and Treats
For those who are passing out tricks and treats, consider fun non-food favorites like temporary tattoos, stickers and glow-sticks. Did your child secure a bag full of treats and goodies this Halloween? Try setting a limit and selling the rest. Many local pediatric dentists have candy buy-back programs and will often pay $1 per pound of candy. For a different Halloween experience this year, consider going to a kid-friendly haunted house or ghost tour and bypass the sweets entirely. Check your community events for Halloween celebrations at your local zoo, children's museums or local attractions.
After All the Fun
Halloween is full of fun, but don't forget to help your little ones brush and floss before bed. It's a busy and exciting time, but just like every other day, kids should remember to brush and floss their teeth each morning and night to scare away the mouth monsters - and remember to brush for two whole minutes! Have a fun and safe Halloween and be sure to visit mychildrensteeth.org for tips for healthy little teeth year round.