A Dentist’s Guide to Trick-or-Treating
Do you feel that chill in the air? Jack-o-lanterns are beginning to leer and grin from front porches. Spooky decorations are taking over yards. And you may already be putting the finishing touches on your kids’ costumes.
Pretty soon, you’ll be perusing the aisles of Wegman’s or Safeway looking for treats to hand out to trick-or-treaters. At the same time, you’ll be wondering how to manage your own kids’ stash this year. Because, let’s face it: between school parties, trick-or-treating, and other Halloween events, they always end up bringing home just way too much candy.
Read on for tips on buying treats that won’t damage the teeth of the little pirates, goblins, and princesses that come by your house — plus advice on preventing your own kids from overdosing on the sweet stuff Halloween night.
What Candy Should I Buy?
These days, the sheer variety of candy available is truly mind-boggling. Confections of every texture and color, confections that pop in the mouth, confections designed to make you pucker. And, while you may assume that they have similar effects on the teeth due to their sugar content, that’s not entirely true. Some candies are decidedly worse than others.
Do not buy anything chewy, gooey, or sticky. These nefarious treats tend to get stuck in the grooves of the teeth. This enables bacteria to flourish, and they create the acids that destroy teeth. Included in this group are gummy bears and worms, taffy, and caramel. Plus gummy “fruit snacks,” fruit roll-ups, and chewy granola bars. Even raisins! So if you’ve been thinking about buying little boxes of raisins for your neighborhood trick-or-treaters, don’t bother — you are not doing them any favors, as far as their teeth are concerned.
Sour candies are popular these days, but they contain high levels of acids. And that means they are no good for your teeth on two fronts: you have acid from the candy and bacteria-produced acids due to the sugar content, both wearing down your tooth enamel.
Hard candies such as lollipops are another sweet to banish from your shopping list. These melt and coat the mouth with a layer of sugar that lingers. And the longer sugar stays in contact with the teeth, the more damage it does.
Now for some good news, finally. Yes, there are sweet treats that kids love and that won’t wreak havoc on their teeth. (Phew!) This Halloween, consider giving out chocolate. I mean, who doesn’t like luscious, rich chocolate? Chocolate melts quickly and rinses easily from the teeth, making it fine to consume in moderation. Dark chocolate has less sugar than milk varieties, so opt for that if possible. There is even evidence chocolate may be beneficial for your oral health! Cacao beans contain compounds that strengthen tooth enamel and fight decay-causing bacteria. Though we still advise moderation, as the sugar content may counteract the positive effects to some extent.
Another great treat to hand out on Halloween night is sugarless gum. This actually cleanses the teeth and gums by stimulating saliva production and helping to rinse food particles and bacteria out of the mouth.
On Halloween night, how can you help your kids have an awesome time without compromising their oral health?
- Don’t let them go trick-or-treating on an empty stomach, which is an invitation to gorge on candy. Serve a healthy and filling meal before the festivities begin.
- Eliminate other sources of sugar tonight. If your kids usually drink soda or juice, have them drink water instead. You may even send them trick-or-treating with a water bottle in hand. A reusable water bottle filled with fluoride-fortified tap is best.
- When they get home, sort through the candy and remove the worst stuff from your child’s stash. You may even “buy” it from him or her with a toy, money, or other incentive.
- With the candy that remains, allow kids to choose a couple favorites to eat immediately, and put away the rest.
- In the excitement/chaos of the night, don’t let basic oral hygiene fall through the cracks! Be sure your kids brush and floss thoroughly before bed.
With a little knowledge and planning, anyone can have a fun and tooth-friendly Halloween. To book your family’s next checkups at Gilbart Dental, fill out our convenient online form. Or call one of our two MD offices: Frederick (240-513-7523) or Hagerstown (240-347-0910).