No one wants to take the “treat” out of trick-or-treating but Halloween treats can increase the risk of cavities. A little advance planning and guidance can help your child scare away tooth decay.
The problem. When we consume sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods or drinks, the germs in dental plaque mix with the sugars to make a mild acid. This acid attacks tooth enamel, the hard outer layer of teeth. If the plaque is not removed regularly, the enamel becomes soft and a cavity forms. Tooth enamel is made stronger by drinking fluoridated water. Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste is also important.
How much is too much? The damage to teeth depends on how long sugar stays in the mouth. In other words, the longer and more often sugar touches the teeth, the more damage it can do. Careful timing of treats and good oral hygiene habits will help.
Planning Ahead. Before heading out, talk with your kids about how much trick-or-treating is enough and how much candy will be eaten when returning back home. Use a smaller trick-or-treat bag and set a treats-per-day limit.
Set a Treat Time. Treats are best enjoyed after a healthy meal or as part of a snack. If this isn’t possible, encourage children to swish and drink plenty of water after eating a treat to help remove the sugar and acids from their teeth. Eating a piece of hard cheese or chewing sugar-free gum after a sugary treat can also scare away the cavity germs.
Skip the non-favourites. Remove those treats that are less tooth-friendly (lollipops and other hard candies that stay in the mouth for a long time, sour and chewy candies that stick to teeth). Sugarless gum, chocolate and powdery candies that dissolve more quickly in the mouth are less harmful to teeth.
Keep brushing! Help your child to brush either before or 30 minutes after eating candy (tooth enamel is softened by sweets and may be damaged if brushed right after eating). Be sure your child doesn’t go to bed without brushing; cavity germs are particularly active at night.
Have fun. Besides candy, spending family time being active also makes Halloween exciting; attending community and neighbourhood events is part of the fun. Children also enjoy receiving small toys, stickers, temporary tattoos or glow sticks for treats.