You work hard year-round to instill good dental habits in your children. Still, the sweet temptations of Halloween can wreak havoc on your best efforts! But, kids need to have some old-fashioned fun in this modern age, so most parents can’t do away with trick-or-treating.
Good, common Halloween sense starts with the basics. “Everything in moderation,” according to registered dietitian and author of How To Teach Nutrition To Kids, Connie Evers2. “I tell parents to cut down on the amount of candy they hand out. In America, we tend to do everything in excess and kids will go to a house and get a huge handful.”
Not all experts agree that holding back is the answer, however. Author Bonnie Rochman3 notes the advice of Temple University pediatric dentist Mark Helpin: “Let the kids eat candy, and lots of it, all at once. As long as you’re bingeing on junk, it’s best to bunch the sugar sessions together rather than spread them out. It’s frequency – not quantity – that’s more likely to yield cavities.”
The pH balance in your child’s mouth becomes more acidic for up to an hour after eating sweets. Whether your child eats one piece of candy or several in rapid succession, the acidity still takes the same amount of time to wear off. “The longer teeth are in an acid environment,” notes Helpin, “the greater the risk they will become decayed. Parents can let kids eat a bunch [of candy] now and a bunch later,” advises Helpin.
Evers suggests avoiding or limiting the following snacks2:
- Sticky treats like gummy candies, jellybeans, raisins, and caramels
- Full-sized candy bars
- Non-candy snacks such as cookies, snack cakes, and artificial fruit chews
As more teeth-friendly alternatives, Evers offers the following list of treats2:
- Sugarless gum
- Nuts or trail mix
- Small bags of pretzels or popcorn
- Sugar-free cocoa
- Individual bags of pumpkin seeds
- Pre-packed cheese and crackers
Evers also suggests that parents think beyond candy by giving out fun toothbrushes or other dental items, or throwing a party instead and serving food such as mini sandwiches, nachos, and pizza2. Beyond thinking outside the box, the American Dental Association (ADA) offers 10 ways to safeguard against the effects of Halloween1:
- Eat Halloween candy and other sugary foods with meals or shortly after mealtime.
- Avoid hard candy and other sweets that stay in your mouth for a long time.
- Avoid sticky candies that cling to your teeth.
- Drink more water.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Avoid beverages with added sugar such as soda, sports drinks or flavored waters.
- Chew gum that has the ADA Seal.
- Brush your teeth twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste.
- Clean between teeth daily with floss.
- Visit an ADA member dentist.
As a parent, finding a happy medium is key, with frequency and types of treats being the most important factors. Dr. Helpin agrees that allowing children simple pleasures such as candy is key to a healthy, happy life. Happy Halloween!
- American Dental Association. “Tips For a MouthHealthy Halloween”. MouthHealthy.org. 2014.
- Jhunjhunwala, Chandni. “Best and Worst Halloween Snacks For Kids”. RD.com. 2014.
- Rochman, Bonnie. “Post Halloween Dental Advice: Kids Can Gorge On Candy”. Time.com. Nov. 1, 2010.