Where has the time gone? It seems as if we were just ringing in the new year, and now fall is already upon us and Halloween is just around the corner. And while we love the ghoulish holiday as much as the next person, as dentists, we worry about all that free candy kids across the U.S. are going to be getting on Halloween night. With pillowcases full of Dum-Dums and Smarties, Tootsie Pops and Milk-Duds, we feel a need to remind parents that, while candy can be fun, it presents a number of health and safety challenges their children wouldn’t face otherwise.
We’re not here to take the fun out of trick-or-treating, but what kind of dentists would we be if we didn’t provide you with a few ways to keep your children’s teeth healthy and smiles beautiful during the holiday season? Not very good ones. So, here are 10 tips for maintaining healthy smiles, despite the stockpiles of candy they’ll receive on Halloween:
- Eat candy and other sugary foods with meals or shortly after. During meal times, saliva production is increased, helping to cancel out acids produced by the bacteria in your mouth and rinse away food particles.
- Avoid hard candies and other sweets that stay in your mouth for long periods of time. Unfortunately, this means no suckers or caramels, two of the best Halloween candies, in our opinion. Besides how often you snack, the length of time food stays in your mouth plays a huge role in tooth decay. Unless it’s sugar free, hard candies should be avoided entirely if you hope to prevent or decrease risk for tooth decay.
- Avoid sticky candies. Man, are we just ruining all the good stuff or what? Milk-Duds. Caramels. Gummy bears. Taffy. The stickier candies such as these take longer to get washed away by saliva, increasing risk for tooth decay.
- Drink more water. Not only does drinking more water help to keep up saliva production, but drinking fluoridated water can serve to protect the teeth double time.
- Maintain a healthy diet. What you eat and how your whole body feels really does have an effect on your teeth and gums, so make sure you feed your body well and that it feels good at all times. Your teeth will thank you.
- Avoid drinks with added sugars. Soda, sports drinks, flavored waters, cool-aid…beverages that contain sugars increase your risk for tooth decay as much as foods do.
- Chew sugarless gum. You’ll know it’s sugarless if it has an ADA stamp of approval on it. Chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after eating helps to minimize risk for tooth decay because it increases saliva flow which, as we know, helps rinse the mouth and neutralize acids produced by plaque and bacteria.
- Brush twice a day. Now we’re getting down to the basics – so long as your child keeps up their twice-a-day brushing routine (with fluoridated toothpaste), they should be fine. Make sure they’re never using a toothbrush older than 4 months, or one with frayed bristles, as a frayed brush never does anyone much good!
- Don’t forget to floss! Candy is bad for your teeth as is, but letting particles of it and other foods sit between your teeth is equivalent to inviting cavities. Floss to get between those areas that your bristles can’t reach.
- Visit the dentist. When you visit us regularly, we can show you how to prevent problems that your child shows a higher risk for, we can stop current decay in its tracks and we can even undo slight decay before it becomes more severe. NOW is the time to visit the dentist, as this is the time of year children tend to eat the most sweets. Plus, if you have dental insurance and you haven’t used it up yet, you might as well make use of it before the year’s over.
From Paragon Dental, we wish you all a happy and safe Halloween! Don’t forget to have your little ones stop by to show us their costumes, or post a picture on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Paragon-Dental/167785299901040?ref=br_tf