Ahh, Halloween! Candy, costumes, and…cavities! Well, you don’t have to let cavities be a reality. Your kids can enjoy Halloween candy without too much worry if you follow our dentists’ advice. Here are 5 ways to keep Halloween candy from causing cavities.
1) Let them gorge, not graze, on their Halloween treats.
Surprised? Hear us out! From an oral health perspective, it’s better to let kids eat a selection of candy all at once, rather than spacing it out throughout the day. Why? Each time your child eats a sugary treat, their mouth pH levels drop for at least 20 minutes. Your child needs a neutral pH level to discourage bacteria and acids from attacking tooth enamel. In addition, each Halloween treat exposes their teeth to the sugar bacteria love. So, eating candy at 3 different times means feeding bad bacteria 3-square meals instead of one. Finally, we’re realists. We know that getting kids to brush twice a day can be a challenge; asking them to suddenly brush after they eat candy up to 3 to 4 times a day doesn’t usually work out. So maybe don’t let them gorge, but don’t let them graze. Pick a treat time after dinner. Let them pick the 3-4 pieces to eat as dessert. Their teeth will thank you, and you won’t have to hear the pestering throughout the day if a clear plan is in place.
2) Have them drink plenty of water after eating Halloween candy.
As we mentioned above, eating sugary treats negatively affects the pH level in your child’s mouth. Drinking plenty of water after their scheduled treat time, however, helps to restore it to healthy levels more quickly. Also, drinking water washes a good amount of the sugar away, so it can’t stick to teeth and feed bacteria for an extended amount of time.
3) Don’t rush to brush.
Tooth enamel is strong, but brushing when sugar and acid levels are high can harm it. The sugar adds an abrasive element to brushing that can scratch tooth enamel while acid levels are high. Instead, have them drink plenty of water after and wait 20-30 minutes to brush.
4) Swap out the more harmful candies for melty options
Although all candy is loaded with sugar, not all candy impacts your child’s teeth the same way. Some types of candies are harder on teeth than others. For instance, candies like Sour Patch kids are among the worst for your child’s teeth. They pack that one-two punch of sugar and acids (much like drinking soda). Also, they are very sticky, so they linger on teeth longer and are harder to brush away. Melty candies like chocolate, for instance, wash away more quickly and easily with water and brushing. The solution? Consider bargaining with your child. Trade them chocolate for their sticky taffies and hard lollipops. If they don’t like chocolate, consider offering them a trade of candies for a bowl of ice cream or a small toy.
5) Limit the number of days Halloween candy remains in the house.
The amount of candy kids from trick-or-treating is enough to last for weeks! Allowing it to stick around that long, though, risks too many days of sugar exposure to developing teeth. (Also, if we’re being honest, it exposes Mom’s and Dad’s teeth to nightly rounds of sugar, too! Yeah, we know how you usually help that candy pile dwindle while they sleep!) Instead, keep only their favorite treats and limit Halloween candy to only a couple of days after the big event. To get rid of the excess candy, look for a candy buy back event near you. These events often offer your child some cash to help them part with their spoils. If there’s not such an event near you, consider donating it to a local shelter or just throw it out.
In the end, teaching your child how to enjoy candy and treats with clear limits is more than about preventing cavities.
Rather, it’s about teaching them healthy habits to last a lifetime. So, when they resist your efforts, try to keep focused on the bigger picture. Their teeth will thank you for it, even if they don’t!