It’s October, which means you’ve probably seen store shelves filled with costumes, jack-o-lantern kits, spooky decorations and, of course, candy. Once kids have gotten their back-to-school checkup out of the way and excitement for dress up, parties and trick-or-treating builds, sensible smile habits probably aren’t foremost in mind. Parents face an interesting dilemma in all this. Where do they draw the line between letting their kids enjoy Halloween to its fullest and make the types of memories they fondly look back on, and doing everything they can to protect their children’s teeth from decay, cavities and sticky braces? Are trick-or-treating and Halloween parties a time to indulge and enjoy, or is it an opportunity to teach kids about moderation and keeping healthy, resilient habits? Most parents decide to merge the two options, allowing their kids to have one or two pieces of candy a night, or a handful over the weekend. It seems like a good idea with respect to moderation and patience, but what few parents consider is that two or three weeks of nightly candy can actually be worse than a one night snack-fest, at least when it comes to teeth. One time exposure to excess sugar isn’t as bad for your tooth enamel as prolonged exposure, even if it’s in limited amounts and it’s followed by a thorough brushing. So what’s the best smile friendly way to enjoy Halloween parties and trick-or-treating? The tips below may help you find some balance between keeping the kids excited and smiling, without doing damage to their smiles?
Take Part in a Halloween Candy Buyback
More and more dental offices, as well as schools and other organizations throughout the country, will invite kids to bring in the spoils of their trick-or-treating adventure and donate them for care packages that are sent overseas to troops and charitable organizations. Kids can become very enthused by the idea of knowing their trick-or-treating fun will make someone else very happy as well, especially if they’re involved from the start. It’s a great way to teach a charitable lesson and give kids the wonderful feeling of helping others. Community members can plan a buyback event and offer incentives to kids, such as hygiene kits, gift certificates and prizes. You can also donate candy to a local food bank.
Have an After Halloween Party
Getting back to the idea of enjoying candy as an indulgence, rather than over a period of time, an after Halloween party can be a balance between letting your kids enjoy their candy, time with their friends, and sharing their treats with many others rather than just enjoying it on their own. Make or buy a piñata and fill it. Kids will be more focused on the fun of the party than the idea that they’re “giving away” their hard earned candy. Provide colorful toothbrushes, mini toothpaste and flavored dental floss as the goody bag. This also gives kids another opportunity to show off their costumes. Lots of candy can be frozen, so if you have a party or celebration coming up in a few weeks, save it and bring it back out at a more appropriate sharing time.
If you’re going to go the traditional route and just let the kids have their cake (candy) and eat it too, choosing the right treats can be the best way to minimize the damage. The acidity levels of sour candy can be detrimental to teeth. If possible, make sour treats like lemon drops, Sour Patch Kids, Pixy Stix and other sour candy off limits. If there’s no way around it, moderation is best. Drinking milk or water with candy can at least dilute the acidity and make it harder for residue to cling on and between teeth. It’s also best to wait before brushing after acidic foods, as acidity softens tooth enamel and can subject the teeth to abrasion. Treats like pretzel sticks, solid chocolate and gum flavored with the decay-fighting sugar xylitol are a bit better than taffy, hard candy, caramel and other sticky, chewy options.
If your kids are due for a fall cleaning, schedule an early November appointment. If you’re going to be indulging along with the kids, come and see us for a checkup and teeth whitening for yourself!