As a family dentist in OKC, our team at Shepherd Mall Family Dentistry know just how excited all the little wizards and witches can get about trick-or-treating this Halloween. While kids typically daydream about all the candy they will collect, Halloween can also cause parents some nightmares as they worry about a variety of health and safety challenges their child might face.
While certainly not a good habit to encourage regularly, one night of bingeing on Halloween candy won’t cause much harm to kids, with the exception of the occasional bellyache. Where a problem can surface, however, is when kids are allowed to continue snacking on the candy they collected throughout the holidays. This can become especially problematic when you consider all the treats typically associated with fast approaching holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas.
Keeping your kids’ smiles looking and feeling their best during the Halloween and subsequent holiday seasons can feel a little overwhelming. Fortunately, your family dentist in OKC has a few tips on how you can help protect your kids’ oral health both during Halloween and the rest of the year.
Schedule Your Sweets
While bite-sized Halloween treats seem like the perfect snack, the ideal time to snack on SweeTarts or to nibble on nougat is actually following a larger meal like lunch or dinner.
Our mouths produce more saliva during larger meals than when we snack. The additional saliva produced by the mouth helps to neutralize the acids produced by harmful oral bacteria, while also working to wash away food particles that would remain stuck to the surface of our teeth.
Snacking presents a number of problems for our oral health, as we will cover in a minute, so sweets should really remain as a treat that follows a bigger meal.
Skip the Sweets When Snacking
A Reese Peanut Butter Cup may seem like a great choice as a late afternoon snack for a child that deserves a treat, but eating candy between meals can cause a variety of problems for your kids’ oral health.
Snacking increases the risk for cavities, and the habit becomes even more problematic when parents provide kids with candy to satiate those afternoon hunger pangs.
As we just discussed, snacking doesn’t cause the mouth to produce additional saliva. This allows the residual sugars from candy to remain stuck to the surface of a child’s teeth and along the gum line. The longer sugar remains in contact with tooth enamel the more fuel it provides cavity causing bacteria to produce harmful acids that slowly erode tooth enamel.
Make Smart Choices When Selecting Candy
Parents should avoid giving their kids hard candies that take a lot of time before dissolving in the mouth.
In addition to the amount of time a child spends snacking, the amount of time sugary foods stay in the mouth also contributes to the development of tooth decay and the creation of cavities. Unless a child chews on sugar-free gum, candies that remain in the mouth for extended periods of time – like Jolly Ranchers or Tootsie Roll Pops, before fully dissolving increase the risk for tooth decay.
Stay Away from Sticky Situations
Sticky candies that cling to a child’s teeth after eating also present an oral health problem. The sticker types of candies – such as taffy and gummy bears – take longer to get flushed from the mouth by saliva. The longer these sticky substances are allowed to remain in the mouth, the more time they have to provide harmful oral bacteria with the fuel needed to cause cavities and decay.
Your Family Dentist in OKC is Here to Help
If you have any questions regarding the best practices for protecting your kids’ oral health this Halloween, feel free to ask any member of our team during your next visit to Shepherd Mall Family Dentistry.