Every year, Americans spend more than $7 billion on candy to celebrate Halloween. That’s a lot of mini candy bars! The majority of that candy ends up in the hands – and mouths – of excited children wearing costumes and ringing doorbells.
Though sugar is present in many foods, such as crackers, sugar in candy is particularly harmful. Sugar quickly breaks down in the mouth and forms acid that erodes tooth enamel. In hard and chewy candy, which stick to teeth longer, this acid is even more harmful and can lead to increased bacteria and cavities. Since this is the time of year your family may be consuming more sugar than normal, we recommend you take a moment to remind your family about the importance of dental hygiene by following these easy tips to maintain a happy, and healthy, smile.
- Limit candy consumption.
Trick-or-treating brings in a lot of candy to houses. Remind children they still need to treat their teeth kindly by limiting how much candy they actually eat. Have them pick out 15 to 20 pieces they want to eat. Then, donate the rest to a Halloween candy buy-back program that sends the candy to troops overseas. Also, try not to make candy the focus of Halloween activities. Instead, offer alternative treats, such as these banana ghosts and tangerine pumpkins.
- Eat a tooth-healthy meal before trick-or-treating.
A healthy, filling meal before trick-or-treating will help ensure your kids don’t get hungry carrying that candy around all evening. Consider a meal that includes dairy products, which contain calcium and strengthen tooth enamel. Adding fiber-rich foods will help remove food particles on your teeth. Wash this all down with a big glass of water to get rid of leftover acid and sugars. As a bonus, tap water in California is fortified with fluoride, a mineral that strengthens tooth enamel.
- Brush at least twice a day, every day.
Only brushing with toothpaste removes food particles and plaque buildup, which can cause tooth erosion, cavities and more severe problems down the road. Make sure to brush in the morning and before bed. You don’t want leftover food particles lingering in your mouth to continue producing harmful acid and bacteria overnight. It’s important to brush your teeth at least twice a day, but the clock should not be your only guide to dental hygiene. Make sure to brush right after eating highly acidic or sugar-rich foods. If you can’t, rinse your mouth with water to help wash away some of the larger food particles and acid.
- Use the right toothbrush.
Equally as important as how often you brush your teeth is how you brush your teeth. You don’t need a fancy electric toothbrush to get the job done, but you do need the right toothbrush. Younger kids in particular can’t wait to use a new brush, so use the excitement of Halloween to buy ones with fun designs or favorite characters. Look for soft-bristled brushes, as hard bristles can scratch tooth enamel. Finally, remember to replace these brushes every three months and store them where they can dry to prevent the growth of bacteria.
- Don’t forget to floss.
Brushing gets rid of buildup on the exposed surfaces of teeth, but food particles can still get stuck hard-to-reach areas between teeth and gums. Flossing before bed every night removes unwanted food particles and plaque buildup, preventing cavities, tooth decay and gingivitis, a common form of gum disease. And flossing is not just for adults. Kids should start as soon as they have two teeth that touch! Children’s floss picks come in a variety of shapes and designs to make the process easy and fun.
- Schedule a dental checkup.
We recommend your family have their teeth professionally checked every six months. Your dentist can identify cavities, gum disease, wisdom teeth and other concerns before they are visible to you. In addition, he or she can offer personalized tips and discuss further treatment options, such as dental sealants to prevent cavities. Family Health Centers of San Diego has six clinics that offer comprehensive dental services, including fillings, crowns, periodontics and X-rays, for children and adults. To schedule an appointment or for more information, please view our dental services.