(Article by guest contributor, Dr. Laila Hishaw, Board Certified Pediatric Dentist)
Well, Starbucks may have brought in the tastes and smells of fall a little early with their “Pumpkin Spice Latte”, but now it’s truly starting to feel like fall in Arizona with temps finally dropping out of the triple digits! As the harvest moon shines bright above and we look ahead to Fall, our kids are getting excited about Halloween! They have probably started planning out their Halloween costumes, trick-or-treat routes and dreaming of all the candy they’ll get! As moms who happen to be pediatric dentists, ”Mommy Dentists” if you will, we look forward to this time of year too but have the responsibility to make sure our kids have a fun Halloween that is a little more on the tooth-friendly side. No, we’re not the dentists that give out toothbrushes instead of candy (we rather the TP stay on the mummy costumes and not our houses) but we’ll probably give out chocolate instead of sticky, gummy candy. Why? Treats that linger in the mouth, stick to your teeth longer, which allows more time for the cavity causing bacteria (plaque) to feed off of those sugars. This releases acid in the mouth, which weakens the enamel that can lead to cavities. Examples of unhealthy treats are lollipops, hard candy, gummy, sour candies, licorice or jawbreakers! More tooth-friendly candy would be treats that melt away like, chocolate (we love dark chocolate), sugar-free gum or pretzels. You could just opt for stickers, Play-Doh or crayons in the party goodie bag.
Below are our 5 easy tips to a healthy, kid-friendly Halloween routine!
1. First and foremost, stick to your normal oral care routine. Brush 2x/day for 2 minutes and floss at bedtime.
2. As we mentioned above, sticky candies that linger are more harmful to the teeth. Therefore, we suggest limiting their intake or maybe swapping those candies out for something else. Parent-assisted brushing is a must if they have those sticky treats.
3. Let you kids enjoy their candy with their meals instead of in-between meals. As we eat, our saliva flow increases which helps to watch away treats remaining on our teeth and neutralizes the acidity created from the candy. Hand your little ghosts and goblins a glass of water when they are eating their candy to help flush their mouths and teeth.
4. On Halloween night, they still need to brush even though they are pooped from all the trick-or-treating. Get them excited to brush with a cool new toothbrush or flossers!
5. Finally, set a designated time that the bag of candy will be thrown away or taken to mommy or daddy’s work. Don’t allow them to graze on the stash of candy until the Holidays. Better yet, bring in the remaining candy to your favorite dentist’s office that offers “Candy Buy-Back”! Our office has been doing this since 2009 and our little patients love the idea of weighing their candy to get paid $1/lb up to $5!
Keep these tips in mind not only on Halloween but daily when making snack choices for your kids. Gummy fruit snacks and gummy vitamins contribute to cavities. Consider, cheese sticks, whole fruit, yogurt and nuts instead. As always, if you have any questions on dental care for your children, make sure to take them in to see their dentists twice a year. Our primary goal is prevention through education and would love the opportunity to care for your kids’ smile! Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!