Should Parents Worry about the Kids Eating All That Halloween Candy?
I have three children of my own who bring home bags and bags of Halloween candy from their trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. Because I’m a dentist, I know first-hand the dilemma facing parents who are worried that all that Halloween candy will causing gaping holes in their children’s beautiful teeth. So the question is: How much of that candy can kids (and parents) eat before it creates havoc in their mouths?
No one wants to spoil the fun, but we know that when any food is eaten, the natural bacteria in our mouths produce acid. It is this acid that eats away at the enamel of our teeth and causes tooth decay. It is possible, however, to minimize the effect of all that sugar.
I have a few tips about how can parents safeguard their children’s teeth and still let their children enjoy the candy. Start with a discussion before Halloween, thinking of ideas about what the family can do with all the candy from trick-or-treating. Begin to establish some Halloween candy-eating guidelines. For instance, tell your own trick-or-treaters that they can pick out 25 pieces (or less) of the candy they most want. Then discuss giving away the rest or donating it.
With this in mind, I started a Halloween candy buy-back program about ten years ago as an incentive for kids to part with most of their candy stash and, at the same time, help make Halloween special for our overseas troops where we ship the treats.
Second, after the candy is brought home, help your children pick their treats they can keep. Sticky, gooey candy and candy like lollipops and jawbreakers cause the most damage because they stay in the mouth for a long time compared to other candy treats. Plain chocolate bars or chocolate kisses turn out to be the best choices.
Third, eat Halloween candy or any candy, for that matter, immediately after a meal because the acid production from eating has already been activated. Tell your children, they can have one piece of Halloween candy for dessert. Keep in mind that eating candy between meals is not a good idea because of the extra acid it generates in the mouth.
Fourth, right after the meal, children (and adults) should brush their teeth. If this is not possible or practical, then drink some liquids, like water or milk, to wash away the sugars and starches so they don’t remain on the teeth for a long time, causing cavities.
Last of all, keep the candy stash out of sight so no one will be tempted by it – parents included!
The Academy of General Dentistry reports that our nation consumes more than 7 billion pounds of candy each year and Halloween trick-or-treating contributes to a large percentage of that consumption. If we teach our children to use moderation, to make good choices, and to practice good dental hygiene, then it should be a Happy Halloween.
Dr. Ron Rotem, DDS, Cosmetic and General Dentistry for Adults
Lakehurst Road, Toms River, N.J.