Employee & Community Health

5 tips for a tooth-happy Halloween

10/24/2016 by Dr. Valeria Cristiani

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At Halloween, we'll be handing out a small mountain of candy to kids, but these treats can play tricks with their teeth. This holds true for grown-ups, too, who have been known to sneak a treat or two from the candy bowl at home or the office. 

One of the biggest "tricks" is the greater risk of cavities. Sticky candies like caramels or gummy bears also can loosen dental work such as fillings, crowns and bridges. 

These five tips can help you and the kids have a tooth-happy Halloween:

  1. Eat candy with meals or for dessert. Your mouth produces more saliva during meals, which helps rinse away food particles and cancel out the acids produced by bacteria in your mouth. A good meal before trick or treating will help keep your child from filling up on Halloween candy.  
  2. Avoid caramel, gummies, sour candy and bubble gum. Not all candy is created equal. Sticky and chewy candies get stuck in our teeth and are harder for saliva or water to rinse away. Sour candy contains more acid that can break up the tooth enamel and increase the risk of cavities. Choose chocolate without fillings (dark chocolate is the best!). . 
  3. Drink more water. Like saliva, water helps flush sugars away from your teeth. 
  4. Break out the toothbrush. Give your teeth a quick brushing with toothpaste after enjoying a candy snack. This is in addition to your regular two-times-a-day brushing. 
  5. Think beyond the candy bar. In a survey by the American Dental Association, two-thirds of the kids (age five to 13) said Halloween would still be fun without as much candy. When shopping for treats, consider adding some of these to the mix and letting the trick-or-treaters pick: 
    • Mini bags of pretzels, fish-shaped crackers or sugar-free bubble gum
    • Glow sticks, bracelets or necklaces
    • Halloween-themed pencils or stickers
    • Spider-shaped rings
    • Bubbles or bouncy balls

Dr. Valeria Cristiani is a pediatrician with Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM). She co-chairs the Olmsted County Children's Oral Health Task Force and also is a member of the Minnesota Oral Health Coalition, a nonprofit group that supports oral health around the state.