If you’re like most parents, you probably took your kids out trick-or-treating this past weekend. Halloween candy can harm your kids’ teeth, but there are certain ways to minimize the harm.
About 15 years ago, dressed as a gangster, I walked up to a dimly lit house and opened my pillow case and said “Trick or Treat!” I received neither a trick nor a treat. I stared in disbelief as the elderly gentleman dropped a toothbrush into my pillowcase.
I felt like that single moment detracted from the true spirit of Halloween. I couldn’t believe that I’d just wasted 30 seconds of valuable trick-or-treating time on an oral hygiene product.
I promised myself I would never give trick-or-treaters a toothbrush. I’ve kept my promise so far, so I won’t give you a toothbrush this Halloween, I’ll just give you some good tips on how to keep your children’s teeth healthy this Halloween.
To answer the question in the title of this article: Yes, kids can keep their teeth reasonably healthy this Halloween season. By incorporating the tips below into their candy-eating lifestyle, hopefully your kids can avoid an extra trip to the dentist for a filling!
The Type of Candy They Eat
One of the worst kinds of candy to eat is sour candy. Sour candy often contains acids that help dissolve the teeth.
You might think that making your child eat dried fruit, such as raisins isn’t too bad for their teeth. However, dried fruit is as bad as some candy and can even be worse if it sticks to the teeth and hangs around in the mouth for a long time.
When we took our kids trick-or-treating this weekend, we ended up getting a lot of chips like Doritos and Lay’s potato chips. While these types of “Halloween candy” can be better for the teeth than pure sugar, sometimes they can stick around in the grooves on your child’s teeth. If they stick around, they can be turned into sugar and cause cavities just like a sugar-filled candy bar would.
Although there is no sugary candy that really benefits the teeth, some bubble gum can help if it is chewed for a long time, since it helps stimulate saliva production which can help the teeth.
It’s probably best to shy away from sour candy and sticky candy that can hang around in your child’s mouth for a long time. One thing that can have a big effect on how long the candy sticks around in their mouth is what they do after they eat their Halloween candy.
What They Do After They Eat Their Candy
A great way to get the sugar out of their mouth and keep the bacteria from producing more acid is to have your children rinse their mouth out with water a few times after eating their candy.
Eating cheese after candy not only helps rinse away the sugar, but the calcium and phosphate in the cheese can remove the acid from your child’s mouth and help re-build any enamel that was dissolved. Eating any of a variety of snacks that are good for teeth can help wash away the sugar. Even chewing gum will help stimulate saliva production to clean out the mouth.
It’s alright to have your children brush their teeth, as long as they haven’t eaten a bunch of sour candy. Sour candy, such as Sour Patch Kids, can start dissolving the enamel on your children’s teeth. If they brush before their saliva has had a chance to repair the enamel, they could permanently brush away a very thin layer of enamel.
How Often They Eat Their Candy
For example, it would be much better for your child to eat two candy bars in one sitting than it would be to have them eat a candy bar one bite at a time over the course of a few hours. Every time they eat sugar, the pH in their mouth drops, allowing cavities to form.
To better understand what happens each time you eat sugar, take a look at the article What Happens In Your Mouth Every Time You Eat or Drink.
Mark Helpin, a Temple University pediatric dentist has said, “Parents can let kids eat a bunch of candy now and a bunch later. But don’t let them have one piece now, then an hour later let them have another piece.”
When They Eat Their Candy
The worst time to have your children eat their Halloween candy is right before bed. Saliva production generally stops when we sleep. If you eat sugar right before going to bed, the sugar can stay in your mouth for a long time. Try to not have your children eat their Halloween candy right before bed.
Some good times to eat Halloween candy would be right after a meal, such as lunch or dinner, when they are still making a lot of saliva to help clean our their mouths. Another good time might be to have the candy as a snack after school.
Hopefully these tips will help you to keep your child’s mouth healthy this Halloween season.
If you have any questions or comments on this article, feel free to leave them in the comments section below!