5 Tips for For Avoiding Cavities This Halloween

Written By Dr. Ronald Hsu, DDS, M.S. on October 5, 2018

A Not-So-Scary Halloween

Photo of candy

 

The funnest and (probably) the biggest “sugar holiday” is nearly upon us.  In a little less than a week, tens of millions of children, teens – and yes, even adults – will be hitting the streets, going door to door, showing off their costumes in exchange for (mostly) processed and refined sugary treats.  As your kids return home with their bucket, bag, or even pillow case-ful of these candies, you are thinking “hmm…  I hope they don’t end up with cavities.”  Perhaps you even wonder, “what’s their dentist going to think!?”

I confess, I love Halloween.  Among holidays it is right up there with Christmas as far as my wife and I are concerned.  We love seeing the kids in their make-believe, and all of that imagination is a large part of the founding principles of Storybook Dental.  So we go all-in.  Over the years our family has done Peter Pan (I was Cpt. Hook), Super Why! (Alpha Pig for me), Curious George (Man in the Yellow Hat), even Avatar, the Last Airbender (Fire Nation Prince Zuko!)  My wife even turned me into Toothless (How to Train Your Dragon) one year, complete with wings and tail.  Good times!

I’ve been giving out toothbrush and toothpastes along with a couple of bite sized pieces of chocolate for the last 11 years, and it is always a delight when the kids realized what they got, turns around and excitedly shout to their parents, “I got a toothbrush!  And toothpaste!”  Candies they can get at every door; but a brush and a tube of toothpaste?  Only at my place.

So how can we help our kiddos enjoy this great holiday – and their loot! – without wrecking their teeth?  My recommendation: levy a Mommy tax AND a Daddy tax, and shrink their haul down to a more manageable size.  It teaches them about authoritarian regimes and the pain of paying taxes, along with removing a sizable portion of their tooth-damaging ammunition.  Win-win all the way around, not to mention I get to indulge in some of that yummy-ness as well.  We shall ignore the effects on waistlines for the sake of staying on task here…

Anyway, let’s get to the more serious part of cavity prevention post-Halloween.  What can we do as parents to help our kids enjoy the work of their labors without wrecking their white pearlies?  Here are a few tips:

LET THEM BINGE. 

Next Wednesday night, after they come back with their containers filled to over flowing, let them have at it.  If your kids aren’t used to a lot of sweets it won’t be long before they would get a little sick of all of that.  This has two positive effects: kids would adore you for letting them down all that candy, and that sickening feeling after they over-indulged will actually lead them to find those treats less appealing later on.  Make sure they are brushed and flossed thoroughly, and…

FRISK THEM.

Make sure to search them for any "secret stashes" before they go to bed.  If there is one thing that would blow all of my subsequent advice to bits it would be the kids sneaking a stash into their room for future covert consumption.  In my early years as a parent it was not unusual for me to find wrappers in my kids’ rooms.  Needless to say, the one child that sneaked the most ended up being the one with the most number of cavities.  So be sure to thoroughly inspect all pockets and crevices and keep their rooms a sugar-free zone.  Once they are down and out, go through their loot and…

SORT AND SEPARATE. 

Things that would melt away in your mouth within a relatively short time are safe.  I’m talking about chocolate, hard candies, Dum Dums, etc.  As you will see later, treats that can be “cleared” out of the mouth in a timely fashion does not pose much risk.  However, the stickier goodies can cause problems.  Certain brands of fruit snacks, licorice sticks, dried fruits, or treats with dried grains mixed in (such as rice-crispy treats) may be a lot more harmful.  In the business of making cavities, contact time matters.  The longer the food residue sits on the teeth, the more likely that they will cause tooth enamel to dissolve and weaken.  So once you have separated out the “good” treats from the “bad” ones, discreetly get rid of the bad ones, and…

DIVIDE TO CONQUER. 

Because you have magnanimously allowed your minions to indulge to their hearts’ content on All Hallow’s Eve, going forward your stinginess should encounter less resistance.  Let them have a bite-sized Snickers, Almond Joy, Kit-Kat or two; or three, even.  As long as they are having them in one-sitting, not savoring them and nibble a bite or two every 20-30 minutes, these snacks are unlikely to cause lasting damage.  When it comes to sweets and snacks, frequency plays a huge role in how the teeth will fare.

EAT DESSERT FIRST. 

I know, sounds like a terrible idea, right?  However, there is some serious logic to this.  Once the kids start on their meal, as they chew the various food stuff, the left-over dessert gets scraped off of the teeth.  In fact, if they eat salads last, all that nice vegetable fiber would do a fantastic job clearing away the food; and with a nice swig of water, they would be able to quickly return the environment of their mouth back to a much more favorable pH of 6.8, which is safe, healthy, and mineral building for their beautiful teeth.

Regardless, after a week or two it would be time to consider how to get rid of the rest of the stash.  Take them to your office and share with your co-workers.  Sell them back to the dentists who offer buy-backs.  Save them as rewards for future good deeds.  There are all kinds of ways to make these goodies disappear.

Lastly, you friendly local pediatric dentist can help, too!  You can consider a quick visit before Halloween and get a fluoride varnish treatment to fortify the enamel before the sugary onslaught, or a post-Halloween visit to get a boost on replenishing the minerals that may have been lost during the festivities.  With a little bit of planning, everyone would get to enjoy Halloween without worrying what the sugar-bugs will do to their pretty pearly whites!

 

For any further questions regarding cavity prevention, or to schedule an appointment for your child, please call us today at 360-216-1130


Posted In: Preventative Dentistry