Halloween Dental Tips for Keeping Mouths Healthy

Halloween means sweet treats are all around us. During this time, it’s nearly inevitable your child will be consuming food with added sugar. Lurie Children’s Ray Jurado, DDS, Head of the Division of Dentistry, and Ashlee Cosantino, DDS, Attending Pediatric Dentist in the Division of Dentistry, share some helpful information and tips for keeping your children’s gums and teeth happy on this sweet holiday:

Worst Candies for Teeth

Sticky candies such as caramels, taffy or gummies are some of the worst for the mouth because they stick to the grooves in your teeth and linger in your mouth longer, giving more time for decay to develop.

Hard candies and lollipops can get stuck in the teeth and, when left too long, can start the demineralization process, leading to cavities.

Sour candies should also be limited. They contain sugar and are acidic, so they break down tooth enamel faster, making teeth more prone to decay.

Better Candies for Teeth

Chocolate is a better candy for your teeth because it dissolves off the teeth more quickly. Candies and chewing gums made with xylitol are considered “tooth-friendly” because xylitol helps kill off the bad bacteria in the mouth leading to fresher breath and fewer cavities.

Eat a nutritious meal before

Make sure your family eats a healthy meal before trick-or-treating, which can help limit the number of sweets. Eating candy alongside a meal can also protect your teeth because the saliva our mouths produce helps dilute the amount of sugar present.

And don’t forget about hydration! Drinks that some children love, like soda and even juice, can have as much or even more sugar than candy. Choose water as much as possible to rinse any leftover food particles out of the mouth.

Brush immediately after candy

Brushing your teeth for at least two minutes after eating food, especially sticky, starchy or sugary foods, helps prevent cavities from forming. Using fluoride toothpaste is best if your child is old enough to thoroughly rinse with water and spit after brushing. Flossing is equally important to clean those areas between the teeth that the toothbrush cannot reach.

If your child can’t brush their teeth within an hour of eating high-sugar foods, rinse the mouth out with water for 30 seconds, or chew gum made with xylitol.

Supervise your little ones

Baby teeth, even though they will fall out, need to be taken care of. A child’s teeth save space for their adult teeth to grow into later, and healthy mouths mean fewer issues as they age. You may need to increase supervision or finish your child’s brushing job after eating candy if they aren’t hitting each corner of the mouth. Braces or expanders also make it difficult to brush around the hardware and increases the risk of cavities.

Consider donating extra candy

When kids get home after trick-or-treating, try to sort through their candy together. Limit the amount of candy you keep in the house and your child’s unsupervised access. It’s OK to indulge, but if your household has too much candy, look for opportunities to give some away. Some local dental offices hold candy exchanges and give out non-sugary goodies to those who participate.

Enjoy the holiday!

In a poll conducted by the American Dental Association, more than 76 percent of dentists said they give out some form of candy to children trick-or-treating. Even Dr. Jurado said his family hands out chocolate goodies. It’s okay to splurge on candy if you instill healthy eating habits and proper oral hygiene in your kids at a young age.

It’s not just candy that will rot your teeth!

Remember that anything that is a sticky, simple carbohydrate can lead to tooth decay, including Cheetos, chips and crackers. Soda pop, sparkling waters and sports drinks are also hard on teeth due to their acidity.

Always keep your regular dental appointments

Don’t forget to visit the dentist twice a year. It’s the best way to prevent cavities before they start forming.

Practicing good oral hygiene at home and visiting the dentist every six months will keep your child’s mouth happy and healthy during Halloween season and throughout the year.

Learn more about the Division of Dentistry

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