It’s the spookiest time of the year, but it doesn’t have to be scary for your teeth! Halloween is just around the corner, and while some of you parents may be trying to steer your kids away from overconsuming their impressive candy hauls or worried about a variety of health and safety issues, it will be impossible for your children to avoid all candy. We have all heard how candy can rot your teeth, but your team at South Charlotte Dentistry has all the strategies to balance the consumption of candy, safely eat candy, and make healthy choices with candy your kids are eating while still having a super fun Halloween holiday!
Age-appropriate candies: What candies are safe for your child to eat, and at what age?
If this is your child’s first Halloween, you are asking the right questions if you’re wondering what candy is appropriate for them to consume. One of the main factors to consider when deciding if your child can eat candy is whether or not their teeth have come in. Baby teeth begin erupting as early as six months old, but your child likely won’t have their full set of baby teeth until three years old. Once your child has a full set of baby teeth, they can begin eating candies — this is why there isn’t a hard and fast rule for the age of candy consumption, since every child can have a different timeline for their teeth coming in.
A toddlers’ strong suit is certainly not setting boundaries or moderating consumption, so as far as how much candy your child should be eating should be strictly handled by the parent. A good rule of thumb is to limit their consumption to one piece for every year of age.
Once your child has their full set of baby teeth in, you can start them off with candies that melt easily in the mouth like chocolate. Children under the age of 4 should not consume hard candies, including but not limited to caramel, jelly beans, lollipops, and peppermint candies. Sticky candies like caramel and jelly beans and hard candies are not only worse for teeth, but they also pose serious choking hazards.
Tips for Trick or Treating
Bring plenty of water
Kids are hustling around from door to door or trunk to trunk, and trick or treating is thirsty work! Make sure your kids stay hydrated throughout the night by drinking plenty of water. If they’re already starting to snack on candy, you’re going to want to avoid sugary drinks on top of that, so make the choice for your kids by providing them with water on hand.
Make a plan for after Halloween and enforce it!
Time candy-eating around mealtimes
You won’t want your child eating candy all day, and as you know, saliva production increases during mealtimes. Snacking on sweet treats will increase their risk of cavities, and double so if they’re snacking on candy throughout the day. Allow your child to eat their Halloween candy (and really, any other sugary foods) with meals or shortly after mealtime while saliva production is high. This will help cancel out acids that are produced by bacteria leftover in your mouth, as well as rinse away food particles.
Avoid sticky situations
Sticky candies have tons of sugar that cling to the teeth, so candies like licorice, taffy, caramel and gummy bears take longer to get washed away by saliva, increasing the risk for tooth decay. Hard candies like peppermints or hard caramels also lengthen the amount of time sugary food is in your mouth since they have to be sucked on for a long time to consume. The sugar combines with your saliva and sticks to all of your teeth. Unless they’re sugar-free, candies and sugar hanging around in your mouth for too long are not great for your teeth.
Worst sticky candies for your teeth:
● Gummy worms & gummy bears
● Dried fruit snacks
● Tootsie Rolls
● Fruit snacks
If you do consume these candies, be sure to wait 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. You want to let the acid harden on the teeth, otherwise, you will be brushing acid onto more of the tooth’s surface and increasing the risk of enamel erosion.
Avoid sour candies
Did you know that sour candies are actually the worst candies for your teeth? Some candies combine two enemies to your enamel: a lot of sugar and a lot of acids! Acid breaks down the enamel on your teeth, and unfortunately, once enamel is gone, it’s gone forever, leaving your teeth much more vulnerable to decay. If you have to decide between Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids, or Skittles and Sour Skittles, go for Swedish Fish and regular Skittles — they’re the best of two (bad for your teeth) choices.
Opt for chocolate!
If you want the “best” candy for your teeth, then surprisingly enough, chocolate is your best choice! Chocolate doesn’t stick to your teeth, so it’s easier for saliva to break down and brush off of your teeth. Chocolate also tends to have less sugar than other candies. Dark chocolate has the least amount of sugar, compared to white or milk chocolate, but we know a lot of kids aren’t necessarily fans of the more bitter treat.
Donate or give away part of your candy haul!
While it’s a huge moment of pride to have an overflowing candy bin and it can be super tempting to keep all the candy around, your teeth will certainly thank you for limiting your stash. Let your family pick out their favorites and donate the rest. There are plenty of organizations that let you donate to troops overseas, like Operation Gratitude, or you can send sweet gift bags to the adults in your life that don’t get to partake in trick or treating anymore.
Drink plenty of water
Fluorinated water and consuming enough water can help prevent tooth decay. Staying hydrated will also keep saliva flowing in your mouth, which prevents dry mouth and bacteria build-up. Avoid sugary beverages like sodas, sports, drinks, and flavored water. Anywhere sugar is residing in a beverage, there is an increased risk of tooth decay!
Chew gum (if age appropriate!)
An easy way to reduce tooth decay and encourage saliva flow is by chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals. Chewing gum helps reduce tooth decay because the increase in saliva flow helps wash out food and neutralize the acid produced by bacteria.
Brush your teeth at least twice a day, for two minutes, with toothpaste that contains fluoride
We can’t underestimate the importance of always brushing your teeth at least twice a day! It can be a challenge to get your children to brush their teeth properly, and for the right amount of time. Two minutes can be an eternity to a child! If your kid needs extra help with brushing their teeth for the full two minutes, you may be interested in purchasing a musical toothbrush, toothbrush timers, playing their favorite song to brush their teeth too, or brushing their teeth during commercial breaks. Ask your dentist about how you can make brushing fun for your kids!
Balance out the candy intake with healthy snacks for your kids!
You can make healthy treats for your kids after the Halloween haul so they don’t overdo it with candy. Here are a few ideas:
● Peanut butter with apple slices and celery sticks is tasty any time of year, and the extra crunch from the vegetables is great at cleaning your kids’ teeth! Apples and celery sticks contain a lot of water and require a lot of chewing, scrubbing teeth surfaces while they eat. Celery also has fibrous strands, making it “nature’s floss”!
● Prompt your kid to build and then eat a skeleton using string cheese, chopped bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, celery, and cherry tomatoes. Dairy products are excellent sources of calcium and help to build strong and healthy teeth!
● Blend up a witches’ potion with spinach or kale, coconut water, low-sugar yogurt, and their favorite fruit, served in a black mug. Smoothies are a wonderful way for children to get their daily servings of fruit and veggies, while still being a sweet, refreshing treat!
What can you hand out at Halloween as an alternative to candies loaded with sugar?
Sugar-free hard candies and lollipops: Hard candies and lollipops generate saliva, which can help prevent dry mouth. Dry mouth is a condition that allows plaque to build up on the teeth father, which can lead to an increased risk of cavities. Sugar-free candies and lollipops further cut down on sugar, which makes them a great choice for Halloween candy!
Sugar-free chewing gum: As mentioned before, chewing sugar-free gum is a great way to neutralize acids in the mouth and wash out food from the increased saliva flow.
Dark chocolate: Everybody loves chocolate, right? Dark chocolate might be the underdog among children, but for those who do love it, dark chocolate has the most health benefits. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that can be good for the heart and may actually lower blood pressure. Most importantly, dark chocolate contains lower amounts of sugar.
Pretzel packets, Goldfish, Popcorn, and other cracker snacks: Kids love snacks, so why not load up on pre-packaged cracker snacks? Balance out the sweet with some savory, salty snacks.
Non-food treats kids are going to love:
● Temporary tattoos
● Pencils and erasers
● Bouncy balls
● Spider rings
● Glow sticks
● Vampire fangs
Navigating Oral Health During Halloween
Halloween is a great opportunity to teach good oral health habits to children. Rather than taking away their candy, hiding it, or eating it all yourself in secret (joking!), when kids are presented with options and make a plan for managing their candy intake, donating candy, sorting candy among the family, and sticking to their brushing and flossing after eating candy, they can learn moderation and oral health care. Forming good oral health habits young will help them be consistent in the future.
Oral health doesn’t have to be spooky or scary, especially when you visit our team at South Charlotte Dentistry for your regular check-ups! Whether your kids need their biannual cleaning or you want to talk about all things candy, we’re here to help you and your family have phenomenal oral health at all times of the year!
From everyone at South Charlotte Dentistry, we would like to wish you a very safe and Happy Halloween!