This year, Americans will spend close to $9 billion on candy, and in October a lot of that candy will end up on the teeth of trick or-treating children1. My apple a day wants to remind parents that when it comes to cavities and teeth not all candy is created equal. Cavities and tooth decay are caused by prolonged exposure to sugar. Parents and care givers need to be on the front lines helping kids fight cavities by decreasing the amount of time sugar comes in contact with their teeth as well as moderating the amount of candy their kids consume.
Sugar has long been identified by oral health experts as a major cause of tooth decay and cavities. If not removed by brushing, naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth form a colorless, sticky film called plaque. Cavity-causing microorganisms within plaque feed on sugar and turn it into acid. This acid attacks tooth enamel and causes tooth decay. Sticky or chewy candies result in sugar being in contact with teeth for longer periods of time. When children chew sticky candies such caramels or taffy, candy gets stuck on the surface and in between crevices, creating a fertile environment for decay-producing plaque.
Monitoring your child’s sugar intake, and ensuring regular brushing to remove plaque, will help prevent tooth decay this Halloween. These healthy habits will also improve the odds that your child’s next visit to the dentist is cavity-free.
Tricks for Avoiding Scary Treats
- Choose candy that can be eaten quickly to limit the amount of time sugar is in contact with the teeth. Avoid sugared fruit snacks, caramels, popcorn balls and other candies.
- Encourage children to eat a small amount of candy in one sitting followed by a glass of water or a thorough tooth brushing.
- Encourage children to eat a good meal prior to trick-or-treating, so there will be less temptation to fill up on candy.
- Avoid buying Halloween candy too far ahead of time to remove the temptation for children (and adults).
- Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
Halloween is a great time for parents to think about their children’s teeth, but oral health should be a lifelong concern. Monitor your children’s candy and sugar consumption year-round to prevent cavities and tooth decay. Regularly encourage good oral health habits with your children, including brushing at least twice a day, flossing and visiting the dentist every six months to ensure the sugary villains don’t stick around on your children’s teeth long after Halloween is over.