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Tricks of Sweets!
By Dr. Tareq Khalifeh, DDS
What’s a parent to do? Halloween is such an exciting time for
children, and few parents want to deprive their kids of the thrill
of dressing up and trick-or-treating. Still, they’re justifiably
concerned about a host of health issues connected to those treats – from
nut allergies to the health effects of too much candy.
From a dentist’s perspective, I see the destructive effects
of sugar snacks in children every day of the year. Cavities don’t
arise from a single night of overindulgence, but from an ongoing lack
of good brushing and flossing, or the lack of fluoride protection for
formative teeth. Such self-care is even more of an issue for kids with
orthodontics, because the fixtures readily trap food particles that
attract bacteria, the culprit in all tooth decay.
That said, there are several things parents can do to minimize damage
to their childrens’ teeth – and overall health-- on Halloween
- Have a ready supply of sugar-free gum on hand and after your child
has had a couple of sweets, give them the gum to chew. Be sure the
gum contains the sweetener xylitol or sorbitol, which acts on the germs
that cause cavities. Chewing sugar-free gum also stimulates the flow
of saliva, which helps to wash away the acids left in the mouth from
- Give your children colorful new toothbrushes as part of your Halloween
celebration (and once a month thereafter). Ask them to brush two to
three times a day for two minutes, and show them the proper up-and
down-motion. For little ones, you may have to do the brushing for them.
- If you haven’t had a fluoride treatment for your children
at the dentist, considering getting one. Fluoride strengthens the mineralization
of the tooth enamel, make it more resistant to decay. At a minimum,
have your children use fluoride toothpaste and rinse with a fluoride
mouthwash at least twice a day.
- For children wearing orthodontures, suggest they eat chocolate
and other soft candies rather than chewy ones. Bits of hard or chewy
candy are easily lodged in the orthodontic fixtures, where they promote
rapid decay. They can also break the brackets and wires.
- Ration out your kids’ consumption of Halloween sweets and ongoing,
daily sweet snacks and sodas. Some parents let their children have only
two or three of their prizes on Halloween night and put the rest in the
freezer. Other parents try to “get it over with,” letting
their kids eat themselves silly for one or two days and then removing
the leftovers. It’s probably better to take the rationing approach,
because sugar also causes unhealthy spikes in insulin release, leading
to fatigue, and opening the immune system to attack from cold germs
and other illnesses.
- If you use candy substitutes, such as raisins, nuts, and fruits,
be aware that these healthy alternatives also require good tooth brushing
and flossing. Particles of these foods easily catch in between teeth,
where they attract germs and decay against the tooth enamel just as
sugary particles do. The difference is in the amount of acidity they
create in the mouth.
So let them have their fun this Halloween. Just be sure you’re
standing by to make sure they brush and floss and rinse those sweet sticky
Dr. Khalifeh’s practice, Philmont Family
can be reached at 518-672-4077.