Don’t be afraid of your kids’ treats

March 21, 2012

Children throughout the country have their sites set on showing off cool costumes this weekend and on bringing home bags stuffed with candy. Many children look forward to this day throughout the year, but taking in too many of these sugary snacks clearly isn’t good for their overall health or for their smiles.

Children throughout the country have their sites set on showing off cool costumes this weekend and on bringing home bags stuffed with candy. Many children look forward to this day throughout the year, but taking in too many of these sugary snacks clearly isn’t good for their overall health or for their smiles.

That’s why each year around this time parents express concerns about the negative effects of letting their children over-indulge in these treats. To help address their concerns, registered dental hygienists Carri Cady Fiori and Shirley Gutkowski offer up some advice to help trick-or-treaters enjoy themselves without coming away with too many unhealthy side effects.

One belief held by many-that you should rush to your toothbrush immediately after having some candy-is not actually true.

“You should point out that eating candy is best right after a meal, and the best time to brush is before you eat,” said Gutkowski, RDH, BSDH, FACE.

Cady Fiori, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Oral BioTech, adds, “Contrary to common thought, which would be to brush your teeth really well after eating sugar, that’s actually not a perfect time to brush because your teeth are kind of losing minerals and are more vulnerable to abrasion from mechanical wear from the toothbrush and/or any sort of abrasive toothpaste products.”

Because the acidic period where teeth go through some demimeralization following the consumption of candy can last about 40 minutes, it’s a good idea to hold off on that instant brushing, Cady Fiori said. “As much as it might seem counter intuitive, brushing before to keep your teeth as clean as possible when you’re going to ingest a bunch of sugars is recommended. If your kids are going to eat candy then maybe they shouldn’t do so right before bed when obviously you’re going to want to have them brush immediately afterwards. Maybe they have some candy earlier in the day.”

Types of candy

Of course, some candies are better for your teeth than others. Sugar-free choices are good and products with xylitol are even better. Sticky candies such as caramels, taffy and fruit snacks are worse as they keep in contact with teeth for longer periods of time and can be difficult to remove completely by brushing alone.

“Actually, using some xylitol before and after sugar consumption is always a good thing,” Cady Fiori said. “Certainly those kind of sticky candy forms that get stuck in the grooves of your teeth and stay there long after you’re done eating the candy itself-that’s probably something to try and limit.”

Gutkowski, author of “The Purple Guide: Confronting Caries”, also is a big proponent of xyitol, which can now be found in a variety of mints and gums. She recommends products that contain only xylitol to get the reported benefits, and also reminds us that it’s not just kids who enjoy Halloween treats.

“Xylitol candies are awesome, and very well received,” she said. “Just don't eat a lot of it all at once if you've never had any. Also, don't forget that dependent adults get Halloween treats too, and they're at the highest risk for decay. Keep them eating chocolate! Hard candies may last a nice long time but chocolate has systemic benefits that taste good and are good for you.”

Cady Fiori added that good old common sense helps as well, although this time of year it can be difficult to limit candy intake.

“Kids shouldn’t take all their candy and eat five pieces a day for the next 6 months. If they want to kind of have their fill on Halloween night, then you may want to get rid of the rest,” she said. “If they’re going to have candy every day after Halloween for the next couple of months then make that a one-time-a -day type of deal. Not three pieces a day morning, noon and night.”

Other bits of advice from these experts include rinsing your mouth with water after consuming sugar and brushing well throughout the day so there are no bacteria to eat the sugar that make the acid that melts the tooth.

So send your little ones on their way to a healthy and happy Halloween, just don’t let too much sugar keep them from keeping their smiles as healthy as possible.