It's the time of year when candy is lurking around every corner, but following these steps can help protect your kids' smiles.
Let’s face it, Halloween can be a parent's - and dental professional's - nightmare! But if there’s anyone who frets more than parents when the jack-o'-lanterns come out, it’s the dental team.
As a dentist with a focus on nutrition, my work is to help parents feed their kids for strong, healthy and straight teeth. When the holiday period comes around, I see a lot of distressed moms and dads.
Parents and kids all know that sugar harms teeth. Halloween is just one day of the year where we're surrounded by even more sugar than usual.
Treats here and there won’t put kids’ teeth at risk if they eat a diet for healthy teeth. But long-term sugar and sweets intake will. Parents need to remember (and oftentimes need reminders from dental professionals!) that their children’s diet all year is the biggest factor for their oral health.
To help minimize damage - and protect your young patients' smiles - here are seven survival tips to share with parents for Halloween.
Click through the slides to see the tips that could help your patients.
Tip #1: Stay away from the hard stuff
Hard candies usually contain the highest amount of sugar (that’s all they are!) There are plenty of other options for Halloween treats, so stay away from the hard stuff.
Tip #2: Make a quick sugar count and cull the high sugar sweets
Where possible, check the packing and wrappers. Candies don't all contain the same sugar load. If the package reports more than 20 grams per serving, limit it as much as possible. These high concentration candies can easily get your child’s Halloween sugar haul up over 100 grams of sugar! Be mindful of your child's total sugar intake for Halloween.
Tip #3: Avoid liquid treats
Avoid any treats that come in liquid form. Sugars dissolve in liquid at a higher concentration than in solid form. That means in liquid your child will receive a higher amount of sugar per serving. That includes sodas and other sweetened drinks. Liquid candy is a huge dose of sugar that can be consumed quickly.
Tip #4: Stay away from the sticky sweets
Beware of candy that takes a long time to chew! Sticky candy takes a long time to chew and break down in the mouth, which increases the time the mouth is exposed to the sugar load. Avoid sticky, chewy toffies and lollies.
Tip #5: Stay clear of non-natural coloring
Normally, I encourage my patients to eat the full rainbow of foods. But for candy, it's better to stay away from the colored types. Multi-colored candy or candy that have an unnatural flavoring are full of artificial food agents. These are manufactured to make the sweet treat look more appealing.
Tip #6: Avoid fruit on Halloween day
OK, this one sounds strange, but just for the day of Halloween when you know your child will eat a higher amount of candy, I suggest cutting fruit intake. Fruit is the largest source of natural sugar, and even though it comes with natural fiber, your child's body must still break it down. That means any sugar from fruit your child eats on Halloween is additional to the sugar he or she will eat from sweets. Stick to vegetables, meats and non-sweetened dairy for the rest of the day to reduce your child's total sugar intake.
Tip #7: Choose candy based on real food
Most candy and confectionaries are made in a factory from sugar-based ingredients. Try to steer your child to treats that contain actual foods. For example, nuts, dark chocolate or butter-based treats will fill your child up and will prevent him or her from eating high sugar treats that can rot his or her teeth. They also contain nutrients that are protective for your kid's dental health.
Halloween can be a dangerous time for your kids’ teeth, but the truth is that kids eat far too many sweets in their day-to-day lives. The real key to healthy teeth is to eat the foods that create a healthy smile for your child for life. In my book “The Dental Diet,” I outline a 40-day meal program to raise kids with straight, healthy smiles.