Keep Your Kids’ Teeth Healthy this Halloween
It’s October. Hooray for cooler weather, colorful fall foliage, pumpkin-carving, farm visits, and the fun and creativity of dressing up. Not-so-hooray (though your kids may disagree) for the non-stop stream of candy and sweets that seems to be part and parcel of this month.
So how do you manage to keep your kids’ teeth and gums healthy through Halloween and beyond without depriving them of their seasonal treats? Indeed, it’s a balancing act. The answer isn’t to ban candy altogether, which may make children crave it even more. On the other hand, thanks to school parties, community events, and, of course, trick-or-treating on Halloween night, they always seem to end up with way more candy than any one person has any business eating.
We’ve compiled some strategies and advice that will help you find the perfect balance of fun and teeth-friendly this Halloween season. It’s about knowing which treats are especially unhealthy for oral health, and which are better choices. And allowing your kids to enjoy their candy without overindulging.
Treats Don’t Have to Be Edible
If your kids’ school asks you to provide treats for class parties, consider skipping the candy altogether and purchasing seasonal erasers, stickers, or pencils at a dollar store. The kids will love them and parents will appreciate having a little less candy at home.
For the big event on Halloween night, you may want to stay traditional and hand out candy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But choose what you give out carefully. Don’t subject the neighborhood kids’ teeth to hard, chewy, gooey, or gummy candies. These get lodged in the nooks and crannies of the teeth and provide food for nasty, decay-causing bacteria. Chocolate, on the other hand, tends to melt away fairly quickly and is a better choice. And who doesn’t like chocolate?
Another thing to keep in mind is that kids with braces really have to avoid sticky and chewy candies, as well as hard things that can potentially break their wires and brackets. So, if you have kids in the neighborhood with braces, you may want to avoid chocolate bars that contain caramel and/or nuts (or at least have a plainer alternative on hand).
Oh, and fruit roll-ups, gummy fruit “snacks,” and raisins may seem healthier, but they really are not, at least when it comes to teeth.
It’s October 31st. Your kids are raring to leave the house and get lots of sugary loot. So how do you let them have fun while keeping their teeth and gums in great shape? Here are some tips for a tooth-friendly Halloween night.
Fill them up. Prepare a substantial, family-favorite meal and have dinner before trick-or-treating. They may sample a few treats along the way, but this way they won’t be relying on candy to satiate their hunger.
Cut out sugar in other places. If your kids drink juice, soda, or sports drinks, have them stick to white milk or water, at least for this night. (Though this is good advice in general.) Other culprits: sweetened yogurt and those pouches of fruit puree.
If possible, have your kids bring water bottles when they trick-or-treat. Water helps rinse away bacteria and food and keep the mouth clean. Tap water is preferable to bottled water, because most municipal water supplies are fortified with fluoride, an essential mineral for strong teeth.
Edit down the stash. Remove the worst offenders (chewy, sticky, and gummy treats), and have a plan in place for dealing with the remainders. Have your kids pick a couple of favorites to enjoy on Halloween night, then hold on to the rest to dole out over time.
You can also bargain some or all of it for money, a toy, or some other non-edible goodie that your kid will love. If it pains you to throw away all of that candy, you can get rid of it by bringing it to work or donating it to an organization that collects unwanted Halloween candy. (For example, one that sends candy to American service people overseas.)
Don’t let good oral hygiene habits fall through the cracks. After your kids eat candy, make sure they brush their teeth thoroughly for two minutes, then floss.