Fall is near, and you know what that means, don’t you? The store shelves are lined with an array of sweet treats for you to choose from so you can gear up for the upcoming holiday: Halloween.
We’re talking Snickers. Butterfingers. Twix. Skittles. Nerds. Jolly Ranchers. Laffy Taffy. Candy corn. You name it; it’s all right there calling your name. So, it’s virtually impossible to resist the urge to grab a bag full of your favorite candy for yourself while your children get to go from door to door, filling up their treat buckets and pillowcases to the brim with spooky cavity-causing goodies.
All that said, while this time of the year may seem as if it’s just a ploy to get you and your kids into the dentist’s office more often, rest assured. We’re here to list out some simple tricks to help you enjoy a healthy dose of all the Halloween candy coming your way very, very soon and protect your teeth at the same time.
Opt for a well-balanced meal before the fun begins.
With all the hustle and bustle that comes with a holiday such as Halloween—from trick-or-treating to haunted houses, neighborhood parties, and more—you might be tempted to reach for a quick, yet no-so-healthy meal such as a simple pizza or a fast food burger, fries, and soft drink combo.
Instead, however, consider opting for a more well-balanced meal. For example, pizza isn’t necessarily the wrong choice. That is, as long as you find some healthier options to pair with it such as a hearty salad with veggies. When you do, you’ll reduce the temptation to fill up on empty calories and cavity-causing sugars.
Make smart candy selections.
If you’re out shopping for some candy for a party or your neighborhood’s trick-or-treaters, try to avoid going with the ever so popular chewy and sour candy options. Why? Because these types of sweet treats find their way into a tooth’s crevices, which makes it more difficult to wash away when it comes time to brush and floss. As for sour candies? Well, these can break down the enamel on your teeth thanks to their highly acidic nature.
Though, making smart candy selections is just as important when the kids get home with their goody bags and buckets! For this reason, sit down with them and ask them to show off all their “treasure,” so to speak, while picking a certain number of treats (which can be determined based on their age, etc.).
And, use this time to walk them through the best choices for their oral health—think treats that aren’t sticky or difficult to chew such as milk or dark chocolate, pretzels, and crackers.
Designate a specific time for treats.
With all the candy lying around, it can be tempting for you or your children to reach for it at any time throughout the day. Thus, causing more harm to your teeth. To prevent that from happening, designate a “treat time” so you can put a cap on the number of sweet treats your family consumes in a day, which will protect your pearly whites from coming into contact with too much sugar.
Wash away the sugar.
Speaking of sugar, if you or your kids prefer the more sugary and sticky candy choices, just be sure plenty of water is on hand to drink after each treat. And, to take it one step further, swish the water around in your mouth immediately after snacking to get some of the sugary particles moving, which can easily get stuck in between teeth.
When it comes to the type of water you should be drinking, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends tap water as the majority of communities fluoridate municipal water supplies. As a result, it’s a more cost-effective way to prevent tooth decay!
Put any leftover candy to good use.
Sometimes, you can’t even fathom consuming all of the candy your family has somehow ended up with and you simply want it out of sight, out of mind. If that’s the case, consider donating your unopened Halloween candy to one of these three sweet causes.
- Treats for Troops. This Halloween candy collection program, which is run by Soldier’s Angels, invites businesses (think dental offices!) to serve as a collection site so that kids can exchange their treats for other goodies. Visit its website to see if there’s a drop-off location near you.
- Operation Shoebox. This organization distributes candy on Halloween, Christmas, and Easter to troops that are deployed overseas. All you have to do is mail off your candy donation (preferably individually-wrapped bags of candy)!
- Ronald McDonald House Charities. Contact your local chapter to learn about donating your treats to sick children and their families.
Maintain good oral hygiene habits.
What’s one of the best ways to protect your teeth from Halloween treats? Brush twice a day for two minutes using a fluoride toothpaste and floss regularly in between your teeth. And, encourage your kids to do the same—especially after snacking on their favorite candy. Doing so will help remove plaque and sugary particles that accumulate between those pearly whites and under the gum line.
Visit your dentist!
Our final trick left to share is an obvious one—visit us, your dentist! No matter your Halloween candy of choice, we can help you and your family prevent tooth decay from occurring and catch it early if it does creep up. There’s no need to get spooked!
In the end, we all need to indulge our sweet tooth during this time of year (even if it’s just for a bit) and partake in all the fun that comes with Halloween. But, just remember that while you don’t need to pass on candy entirely, it’s essential that you use these tricks listed here today to scare off tooth decay as a result of consuming a little too much sugar!
And, if consuming too much candy is the case, and you or anyone in your family is in need of a routine dental check-up, give us a call to get an appointment scheduled.
Dr. Felicity is a National Board Certified Dentist and a Longtime resident of Charleston.