By Dr. LINDA VIDONE
Each October, children look forward to dressing up and going from house to house collecting candy for Halloween. But in October, we celebrate more than just Halloween – it is also National Dental Hygiene Month so it’s the perfect time of the year to teach our children good oral health.
Here are five of my favorite tips for making it through Halloween with healthy teeth and good oral hygiene:
Certain candy is better for teeth than others
As a dentist, I don’t recommend eating a lot of candy; however, there are some that can be more damaging than others. Candies that are sticky and chewy tend to get stuck in the crevices of your teeth and cause cavities. Candies that stay in your mouth longer, such as lollipops and Jolly Ranchers, also have the potential to be harmful because your teeth are being exposed to the sugar for a longer period of time. I recommend sorting out these types of candies from your child’s Halloween candy and only keeping the candy that is quicker to eat and lower in sugars, such as chocolates and powdery candy.
Make the candy a treat
Children often tend to consume more candy around Halloween because it is lying around the house. Instead of having the candy out, stash it away – and make it a treat or privilege. This will prevent kids from consuming the candy whenever they want. Reward your child with a piece of candy for completing their chores, getting a good grade, having a good attitude, etc.
Practice good dental hygiene after eating candy
Brushing twice a day is always important to maintaining good oral health; however, when your sugar intake increases, it is especially important to increase your oral health hygiene as well. Brushing your teeth and rinsing your mouth after consuming candy can reduce your chances of tooth decay. Also, make sure your little ones drink a lot of water (even better if it contains fluoride); this will help wash the candy particles away.
Donate extra Halloween candy
Donating your child’s Halloween candy is great way to limit how much candy your child consumes. I recommend sitting down with your child to help them pick a few of their favorites and then packing up the rest. There are many charities, dentist offices and organizations that take candy donations. Some dental offices will even reward patients for bringing in candy.
There are alternatives to candy
Consider purchasing healthy snacks or non-food treats for those who visit your home. Crackers, pretzels, raisins, stickers, pencils, yo-yos, coloring books, and of course toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss are all great things to handout and are still fun for kids.
Halloween doesn’t have to be scary for parents and dentists if you follow these tips. Happy Halloween!
Dr. Linda Vidone is the Dental Director of Delta Dental of Massachusetts.