Do you still get excited for Halloween even as a parent? I hope you answered yes! Halloween is a holiday that continues to surprise each year no matter what phase of life you may be in.
Our house loves everything about this holiday, from playing dress up in creative costumes, seeing our neighbors houses decorated in festive decor, and of course filling our buckets with treats. As a pediatric dental hygienist, I tend to cringe a little thinking about the amount of candy children consume this time of year, but it can be done in a healthier way with a little practice and some creativity.
As parents, here are some tricks this Halloween that allow your little ones to enjoy their treats but in an oral healthy fashion.
1. Help with sorting their collected candies
Do you remember as a child coming home after a long night of trick-or-treating and dumping your pile of candy onto the floor and admiring your collection? It is one of those traditions that does not get old, and now you get to continue it with your kids.
Look out for candies that are sticky and require extra time to eat (jolly ranchers, laffy taffy, tootsie rolls to name a few). By reducing the amount of sticky options your child will have to choose from, you are also helping their teeth. Sticky candies that require a lot of sucking or chewing tend to stay on the teeth for a longer period of time, causing more exposure to sugar and greater chances of developing cavities over time.
According to this Oxford study, dental decay is more predictable in children who have less parental control over their sweets and chocolate consumption. When you help with sorting, you are also teaching your children how to choose healthy options for their teeth.
2. Practice sharing
Now is a great time to really involve your little one in the process of sharing their things. Have a conversation about how nice it is to share candy with other people so they are not the ones consuming every piece. Whether you toss that candy or have a few pieces for yourself is up to you. It’s also never too early to begin explaining what candy can do to our teeth. Make it a simple conversation and teach them that candy sticks to our teeth and creates bad bugs that can cause a hole if we eat too much. It can be as easy as that and will help them feel involved in their decision making.
3. Offer candy with or right after meal times
According to the same Oxford study, children who spent their day snacking instead of eating consistent meals had a higher chance for developing dental cavities. Timing your child’s candy consumption is one of the most important parts towards creating a healthy Halloween. The bacteria in our mouths team up with the foods we eat to develop an acidic environment.
During meal times, saliva production is increased and helps naturally rinse our teeth. So, choosing the right time for a treat is best when eating other varieties of foods. Snacking throughout the day, especially on candy and other sweets, creates an acidic oral environment and greater exposure time to harmful bacteria. Try offering Halloween treats after successful meal times as a way to encourage good eating habits and safe snacking.
4. Drink water
While fluoridated water helps prevent dental cavities, it also serves as an alternative to our saliva and washes away harmful bacteria. Serve candy with a side of water to help rinse away those “sugar bugs”.
5. Talk to your dentist about a “give back” program
Some dental providers offer a “give back” program around the holidays to allow kids to trade their candy for a healthier option. Talk to your dentist to see if this is something they are offering to help reduce the chances of reaching in the candy bowl too often.
6. Practice good brushing and flossing
Brush twice a day with a safe and effective kids toothpaste to keep the sugar bugs away! Halloween time introduces greater risks for developing cavities. Grin Kids Natural Toothpaste contains a combination of purposefully selected ingredients, such as organic calendula oil, organic aloe leaf extract, and organic sea salt that work together to inhibit cavity-causing bacteria effectively. Plus, those sweet candies love to stay between the teeth, so flossing with grin natural's dental flossers is more important now than ever! Remind or continue to help your kids with brushing and flossing, and enjoy a healthy and happy Halloween!
About the Author
Kristen Cockrell, MS, RDH. Kristen is a Registered Dental Hygienist with a passion for preventive pediatric dentistry and oral health education. Kristen earned her master’s degree in dental hygiene education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.