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Tricks or Treats for Teeth: Tips for Happy Halloween Health

Dr. Wood gives parents tips on keeping their children's teeth healthy during Halloween.

October  25, 2010

Halloween doesn't have to be a nightmare for your children's teeth. Trick or treaters will come home with a seemingly endless supply of candy, but parents can take steps to manage the deluge of sugary snacks.

This year, we asked Dr. Jeff Wood, chair of the Pediatric Department at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, for his advice to parents on how to cope with Halloween candy and safeguard their kids' teeth.

"A technique that works well is to have kids pick out a few of their favorite types of candy, and parents can discard the rest — or give it to local food banks," says Wood.

He also cautions that while all sugar is bad for teeth, certain kinds of candies can be more damaging than others. Caramels, gum, taffy and similar candies are the worst perpetrators.

"Chewy and sticky candy is especially bad for teeth as these types of candy stick to the tooth's surface for a prolonged period of time," explains Wood.

But ultimately, the best thing a parent can do is keep an eye on their kids' consumption of candy this Halloween. If candy is thought of as a treat, and not something that can be eaten throughout the day, the child will be forming healthy habits.

"The key is to monitor when kids eat candy, how much and how often," says Wood."Parents should make sure that candy is a special treat, not a substitute for healthier snacks and meals. I always suggest that a good time for parents to allow kids to eat candy is after a meal."

Halloween signifies the start of the holiday season, a hectic time of year for most families. Dr. Wood suggests that parents use Halloween as a reminder to schedule dental appointments before the busy season.

"Children should see a dentist by the time they are age one, and after that should see their dentist once every six months," he says. "Prevention is absolutely the best approach when it comes to caring for your kids' teeth."

Other recommendations recently distributed by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry include the following tips for parents:

  • Mix in healthy snacks along with Halloween candy: A balanced diet is one that includes cheese, fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meat, milk and yogurt.
  • Be the tooth-healthy house on the block: Pass out alternative treats such as cracker snack-packs, trail mix packs, rice krispie treats, etc.
  • Take the fear out of flossing: Teach children flossing techniques for improved oral health at Halloween.
  • Make tooth brushing fun: Seasonal tooth brushes featuring Halloween themes get children excited about taking care of their tiny teeth.

Source: American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry


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