Halloween means sweet treats may be all around us, even if we’re celebrating the holiday safely at home this year. Lurie Children’s Ray Jurado, DDS, Head of the Division of Dentistry, and Ashlee Cosantino, DDS, Program Director of the Postdoctoral Program in Pediatric Dentistry; share some tips for keeping children’s gums and teeth happy on this sugary holiday:
Before indulging in candy, eat a nutritious meal, and brush your teeth. Hopefully the meal will limit the number of sweets eaten. Brushing your teeth for at least two minutes after eating food, especially sticky, starchy or sugary foods, helps prevent cavities from forming. Using a fluoride toothpaste is best if the child is old enough to thoroughly rinse with water and spit after brushing.
Keep sticky, gummy candies to a minimum. These high-sugar treats stick to teeth more and longer than chocolate candies. When gummy candies are consumed, have a child brush their teeth and floss within the hour. The longer the sugar stays on the teeth, the better chance cavities will form!
If a 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.
Drinks some children love, such as soda and even juice, can have as much or more sugar candy. Remember to choose water for hydration as much as possible.
Remember that 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 keeping that space healthy means fewer issues with their teeth as they age.
It may be necessary to increase supervision or finish a child’s brushing job after eating candy if the child is not hitting each corner of the mouth and brushing for at least two minutes.
Braces or expanders increase risk of cavities since it is difficult to brush around the hardware. It is best to eliminate candy or brush immediately after candy.
Look for opportunities to give candy away! Some local dental offices hold candy exchanges and give out non-sugary goodies to those who turn in candy.
Remember even fruits and snacks like crackers have carbs that, when stuck to or in between the teeth for too long, can lead to cavities. It is best to brush teeth right after meals to prevent cavities.
Keep your regular dental appointments. The dental office is a safe place, and seeing a dentist every six months is the best way to prevent cavities before they start.
Enjoy the holiday! In a poll conducted by the American Dental Association, more than 75 percent of dentists gave out some form of candy to children who are trick-or-treating. Even Dr. Jurado said his family hands out chocolate goodies. But being mindful of how much we are eating and ensuring we are cleaning our teeth after enjoying sugary treats is essential, he said.