It’s that time of year when Halloween sends shivers down the spines of parents and dentists because the holiday’s treats are super-saturated with the worst enemy of kids’ teeth – sugar. Many treats that come home after a party or neighborhood trick or treating are bad choices where dental health–and even overall health–is concerned.
As the day approaches, watch for these seven treat categories that are tooth killers. Read, too, about how to help kids consume better treats this Halloween.
- Sticky stuff. Sticky treats include candies such as taffy and caramel. The General Academy of Dentistry points to Milky Ways, Snickers, Tootsie Rolls and the brightly-colored favorites, Star Bursts and bubble gum as candies that adhere to teeth and orthodontic appliances. The longer sugar stays on teeth, the longer acid-producing bacteria have to eat away at enamel.
- Candy with nuts. Pay Day bars and peanut M&Ms fit this category. Nuts catch between teeth, causing hidden cavities, and also dislodge fillings and can crack the corners of molars.
- Hard candy. Lollipops, Smarties, Life Savers, Jolly Ranchers and the like cause cavities because their sugars stay dissolving in the mouth a long time. According to the American Dental Association, one of the worst lollipop offenders is the Tootsie Pop because it combines the hard candy shell with the sticky Tootsie Roll.
- Sour tasting candy. This includes old-time sour balls and the more modern Sour Patch Kids. These confections have lots of sugar and high levels of citric acid which is known to erode tooth enamel.
- Treats with a lot of white flour and sugar. This category includes cupcakes, marshmallow treats, cookies, doughnuts, etc. Nutritionists say the sugar content of these desserts is so high that they are just like candy and no better for a child’s teeth.
- Carbonated beverages. Soda pop is a perennial favorite at Halloween parties. Both the sugar and carbonation weaken tooth enamel and should be consumed in limited amounts and through a straw.
- Powdery candy. Remember Pixie Stix? They are still around. When kids eat them, they gulp down pure sugar. While not nearly as sticky as taffy or bubble gum, plenty of sugar stays in the mouth and lips. Their newer counterpart is Fun Dip, a stick of hard candy children can dip into sugary powder.
So what is recommended by the dentists Houston parents trust?
The best scenario is no sweets at all. Since that is likely to be a hard-sell, here are recommendations for a tooth-healthy Halloween.
First, limit the amount of candy or sugary treats consumed. Do not allow continuous snacking. Not only will the child’s teeth suffer, but so will his behavior as he experiences over-active sugar highs and sluggish crashes. Candy as a treat after a meal may be best with immediate brushing afterwards, or if that is not possible, a vigorous rinsing with water should suffice until brushing is available.
Secondly, pick candy that does not stick to or in-between teeth. Simple chocolate bars are best as saliva more readily rinses chocolate away.
Third, substitute organic chocolates and treats which have less sugar and no processed ingredients. Anything that is colored or has a lot of high fructose corn syrup adds empty calories to the child’s daily intake with no nutritional value.
Fourth, move toward homemade yummies where parents control how much sugar goes into the treat. Minimize the amount of store bought, packaged candies.
The bottom line, parents, is to think creatively in order to maximize Halloween fun and avoid the worst treats as if they were the scariest ghouls and goblins. We also hope that parents remember their own dental hygiene this Halloween, and contact us at OMSH for your dental needs.