Believe it or not, dentists don’t like Halloween. They don’t secretly want children not to eat candy. What dentists want is for kids to avoid some super-sweet treats and use moderation when munching on the contents of their candy bags.
“It’s important for kids to have fun,” says Matthew Harper, DDS, associate in the dentistry department at Boston Children’s Hospital. “They should be celebrating Halloween, especially now that they’ve lost a lot to COVID.”
Yes, let your child collect as many treats as they want. The holiday spirit should not be diminished by parents’ worries about sugar. The time to encourage dental hygiene comes after all the knocking on the door.
Discuss “Halloween candy” with your children
Dr. Harper recommends sitting down with your child soon after Halloween and letting them choose their favorite candy from their bounty. Here’s When You Can Unleash Your Inner Willy Wonka: Guide Them To Chocolate Bars – assuming they have no allergies – and away from gummy and hard candies. (We’ll be chewing on that tip shortly.)
“Ask them to choose a number of things they want,” says Dr. Harper. “Put the rest away, somewhere they can’t access. Finally, you may want to consider donating the excess to a dental office that trades – candy for a toy – or donates it to troops overseas.
Your child should approach the candy he keeps following two guidelines: limit him to one or two treats a day, always after a meal, and only candy that does not stay on the teeth for long. This second tip is why Dr. Harper recommends candy bars. Chocolate melts quickly and its sugars do not stay on the teeth for hours. Dark chocolate is even lower in sugar. “It’s probably the best thing for children to have a dose of sugar and not worry about cavities.”
It is not only the amount of sugar but also how long it stays on the teeth
What sticks, longer than you think, and causes damage are candies like Sour Patch Kids and all the other gummy snacks and fruits. The sugars in these candies settle in the grooves of the teeth and are still visible after brushing. (Throughout the year, Dr. Harper recommends not letting your child eat fruit snacks; they are anything but healthy for the teeth, no matter how healthy they are advertised.)
“People usually think about the amount of sugar, but not how long it affects the teeth,” says Dr. Harper. “Of course, it’s always best if your child brushes their teeth right after eating, especially candy, to remove this sugar immediately. “
Limiting candy to one or two pieces immediately after a meal helps your child’s natural decay-fighting defenses to work. “After eating a meal, you have more saliva in your mouth and, by working with your tongue, it is a form of mouth cleaning. Saliva buffers the acidic sugar. But when you constantly snack before meals and long after, your mouth can’t quite dab the acid, and that’s how cavities are formed.
Also, your child is best to avoid Tootsie Pops, other lollipops, and all hard candy. Biting on these puts teeth at risk of cracking and can damage teeth that have fillings.
Let the fun come first; hygiene encouragement can come later
When Dr. Harper was a child going for a sleight of hand in his Oakville, Ont. Neighborhood, a dentist handed out toothbrushes. He’s not saying you should follow this dentist’s lead. In addition to chocolate bars, you can also hand out stickers or knickknacks in consideration for people with allergies to chocolate.
Still, your child shouldn’t think of dentists on Halloween unless they dress like one. Let them fill their pillow cases on this special holiday, although Dr. Harper recommends asking your child not to eat candy. while they are trick-or-treat. Once home, let your child eat a few sweets at the same time as you “gently” discuss the importance of moderation, low-sugar sweets, and daily dental hygiene. And don’t forget: have them brush their teeth before going to bed on Halloween night.
Ask about the Department of Dentistry or make an appointment.