Halloween Tips for Healthy Teeth

Dr. Susan Tikson

With Halloween right around the corner, many children are eagerly anticipating the costumes, spooky stories and, of course, the candy. But with an abundance of sugary treats comes the potential for dental problems such as tooth decay, cavities and poor oral hygiene.

As a dentist with two daughters, I know it’s impossible to ban candy altogether. (Even I’ve been known to sneak a few treats from their stash on Halloween night!) So instead of trying to steer kids toward apples and toothbrushes, use these tips to help them maintain healthy smiles without spoiling their Halloween fun.

Choose their candy indulgences carefully.

Not all candy is equally damaging to teeth. By making smart choices about which candies to give to children (in moderation, of course), parents can promote healthy smiles. Although reducing sugar intake is a safe way to lower the risk of developing cavities, it’s not realistic. Children can still indulge their sweet tooth without compromising their dental health.

Parents may be surprised to know that soft chocolates such as Hershey bars, Three Musketeers and Reese’s peanut butter cups are fantastic choices on trick-or-treat night. Sugar-free gum or soft, nonacidic candies are also good options. Since these candies don’t tend to get stuck in the grooves of teeth or linger in the mouth, saliva and sips of water will help wash them away soon after eating.

Don’t get into a sticky situation.

Sticky, chewy and gummy candies such as Sour Patch Kids, Tootsie Rolls, Sugar Babies, caramels and Laffy Taffy are the worst offenders when it comes to cavity-inducing sweets. They can stay on children’s teeth for hours. Bacteria feed on the leftover sugar, increasing the risk for tooth decay.

While occasionally treating your child to sticky candies may not harm their dental health, these sweets are on the “bad candy” list. As The American Dental Association says, “Be picky if it’s sticky.”

Hard candies can be hazardous.

At first glance, hard candies such as SweeTarts, lollipops, jawbreakers and Warheads may seem like good options for teeth, but these cause issues as well since they take longer to dissolve. Exposing teeth to sugar for extended periods of time can cause the mouth to produce enamel-damaging acid. For overly eager children, biting down on hard candies also can lead to chipped or cracked teeth.

Maintain regular dental-care routines.

Dentists don’t expect children to avoid candy this Halloween, but during a season known for candy consumption, it’s important that parents help their children maintain good oral hygiene.

Remind kids to brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day to remove plaque and food particles stuck between teeth or under the gum line. Be sure to replace toothbrushes every three to four months (sooner if you notice the bristles fraying). And on trick-or-treat night, make sure children brush their teeth before bed to get rid of any lingering sugar in their mouths.

Schedule regular visits with your dentist.

By scheduling dental appointments for their children every six months, parents can help prevent and treat any issues that may arise while improving oral hygiene. If children do experience problems such as pain, chipped teeth or increased sensitivity, they should see immediately their dentist to determine the cause.

By encouraging children to maintain healthy dental habits, making smart candy choices and eating sweets in moderation, families should find this Halloween filled with smiles and not scary tooth pain.

Dr. Susan Tikson is a dentist who practices in Worthington. Find her at susantiksondds.com.