It’s officially fall, and that means the beginning of a string of happy holidays to look forward to, first among them, Halloween. Are you already decorating your house in pumpkins, spider webs, and spooky specters? It’s no doubt your kids are excitedly deciding on their costumes for their exciting night of trick-or-treating. Moreover, the time-honored tradition of pumpkin buckets full of candy is already filling their heads with anticipation. But what about their teeth?
It’s no secret that those tricks and treats are an assault on teeth, but how do we reconcile fun, tradition, and dental health all in the same bucket? We’ve put together a list of dental tips for you to help you survive Halloween with a balance that will include some healthy treats alongside the chocolates. You won’t have to say “no” to everything.
Toothy Tips for Your Child’s Dental Health This Halloween
1. Space Out the Stock Pile
Put limits on how many Halloween sweets your kids can eat at once. It’s not unusual for kids to want to binge on their goodies when they come home, but it’s certainly bad for their teeth. Space it out, allowing one or two treats per day instead.
2. Sort Through the Stock Pile
While it’s true that any candy or sweet is bad for your teeth, not all are created equal. Sort through their stash, and pull out hard candies that take a long time to dissolve. These candies are particularly harmful to the enamel on teeth due to the longer period of time they take to dissolve. The drawn-out process allows the sugars more time to compromise the tooth’s enamel before being washed away. Additionally, after an extended period of time sucking on a hard candy, we chew them up. These hard candies tend to stick firmly in the crevices of our teeth and are difficult to dislodge. Similarly, sticky candies such as taffy, gummy bears, gummy wears, and gumdrops present the issue of sticking to the teeth.
3. Donate Excess Candy
This is actually becoming a more popular solution for parents everywhere. It seems wasteful to simply throw away all the candy that has been deemed too sticky or too hard, and there are programs established to donate unopened and unwanted sweets! Isn’t American ingenuity wonderful? Call your local nursing home, homeless shelter, or food pantry to see if they will accept these donations. If these options aren’t accepting candy donations, hold off before you toss them into the trash! Here’s a rundown of some national programs that will take your candies off your hands without a doubt:
- Treats for Troops by Soldiers’ Angels – Fill out their donation form and mail your candy to the collection address found on their official website’s search function.
- Operation Gratitude – Register on their website where you will be paired with a local military unit, veteran group, first responders, or asked to ship to a collection center. This group also accepts monetary donations to aid with the cost of shipping the candy care packages to trips.
- Operation Shoebox – Operation Shoebox sends care packages all year long, regardless of the season, and are always accepting donations. Donations can be sent directly to their receiving address in Florida.
- Ronald McDonald House Charities – Ronald McDonald helps take care of families who have children in the hospital. Imagine how delighted children would be who can’t go out trick-or-treating to receive a Halloween treat? Check their website to find a chapter near you to organize your donation.
- Halloween Candy Buy Back – Nationwide businesses are organizing buy-back events, check the website to search for a business doing a buy-back event near you!
We’ve talked before about the superpowers of our saliva in washing away sugars and acids that eat on the enamel of our teeth. The fact is, our saliva production increases during mealtime therefore, if your kids are going to eat chocolates or candies, they had best do it right after a meal so there’s plenty of saliva to start working. Avoid allowing the candy as a snack when saliva production is lower, healthy snacks such as crispy fruits or veggies are best between meals.
5. Water with fluoride
Fluoridated water is another steadfast soldier in the protection of our teeth. Make compromises with your kids that if they’re going to have a candy, they’ll avoid juices or sodas and stick with water to quench their thirst afterward (sugar makes us thirsty). If you’re opposed to drinking water from the tap, this link will take you to a list of brands that produce bottled water with fluoride.
6. Set an Example
Consider you’re not the only parent concerned about the massive quantities of candy your kids are receiving every Halloween. Why not, instead of handing out candies at your doorstep, seek to set an example and hand out something healthier or creative for Halloween? Here are a few ideas:
- With a black marker, draw a jack-o-lantern face on little tangerines to hand out.
- Hand out ADA-approved sugarless gum.
- Hand out granola bars.
- Hand out mini boxes of raisins.
- Hand out mini packets of trail mix or peanuts.
- Hand out little applesauce snack cups.
- Some of these healthy Halloween snacks cost more than others, and certainly none of them are likely as cheap as buying a bag of small chocolates. Nevertheless, you aren’t required to have your porch light on all night. Buy what you budget for, and turn out your light when supplies are gone. There’ll likely be more than one parent out there relieved to see something in their kids’ pumpkin bucket that they can consider healthy.
7. Brush Teeth
If you’ve been lax on the routine of brushing and flossing at home, it’s time to turn back to it! Throughout the month of October, chocolates and candies are available in abundance, not only on the night of the 31st. Hop on the dental hygiene habit wagon, and stick to it this month, no matter how late you stay out trick-or-treating on Halloween.
As always, we’re here for you, so if your kids are due for a checkup, or a cleaning we’ll have them in the dentist’s chair quick. Give us a call and come see us before they have a toothache.