The spookiest day of the year is quickly approaching, and with it comes many decisions for you as a parent.
Halloween doesn’t just mean figuring out what costumes you and your kids will wear. You’ll also need to figure out which fun and tasty treats to have on deck for your kids and for other trick or treaters.
This feat can be trickier than expected. After all, you don’t want to hand out cavities to your child or the other kids in the neighborhood.
Tooth decay from cavities is all too common, and is one of the most common chronic diseases for children. A whopping 20% of children age 5-11 have at least one cavity that has been left untreated. And when left untreated, cavities can lead to complications like pain, diabetes, and more.
While it’s helpful to promote healthy teeth in your children, you don’t want to be the house that all the trick or treaters skip because you hand out toothbrushes! After all, Halloween is supposed to be fun and indulgent for your kiddos — but how can you balance that with protecting their teeth?
Just like with most decisions as a parent, there’s a middle ground to this dilemma. We’ll guide you through which Halloween treats to avoid, which ones aren’t so bad for your children’s teeth, and how your kids can make sure their teeth stay strong and healthy after they have their evening of fun.
Candies That are Bad for Your Teeth
One way to make the holiday a little more tooth-healthy is to avoid certain candies that are especially harsh on gums and tooth enamel. Keep your kid’s teeth safe by skipping these treats:
We hate to say it, but it’s probably best to pass on the jawbreakers and Gobstoppers.
When you suck on hard candies, they melt in your mouth and then re-form as a coating on their teeth. This sugary, bacteria-filled coating is the perfect recipe for tooth decay, and this stubborn residue can be hard to get rid of even with brushing.
When you chew on hard candies, it can cause damage to your enamel. Pieces of the candy can also get wedged into hard-to-reach areas in your mouth, where they can accumulate bacteria and lead to bacteria.
Remember sucking on a taffy or caramel chew and enjoying every bite, then spending the next 15 minutes with your fingers in your mouth, trying to scrape the sticky candy out of your teeth?
The fact that sticky candies aren’t the best for your teeth shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Sticky candies get stuck to every crevice of your teeth, especially those areas where your toothbrush can’t reach. It can also put your caps or fillings at risk, as you may pull these out along with the candy that’s stuck to them.
Sour candies tend to be the trifecta of what you should avoid on Halloween: They tend to have a lot of sugar, are either a hard or a sticky texture, and are extra acidic.
When left on the teeth, the acidity of sour candies can begin to eat away at the enamel. This makes the teeth and gums vulnerable to decay and cavities.
Halloween Treats That Aren’t So Scary
Of course, we don’t recommend candy every day. But we’re human, and we know that everyone (especially kids) deserve a treat now and then — especially on Halloween.
Here are a few treats that pass the tooth test when eaten in moderation.
It turns out one of the most delicious and popular kinds of candy is okay as a Halloween treat! Chocolate has an easy-to-chew texture that dissolves well in your mouth, so it’s easier to brush, rinse, and floss away.
Dark chocolate has very little sugar AND bonus calcium, which helps your teeth and bones grow stronger. It also contains natural chemicals that limit bacteria production in your mouth, which helps with bad breath and the risk of tooth decay.
Candies with nuts can be a better choice than sticky, hard, or sour candy. The nuts help break down the candy, making it easier to brush away.
Try something like Kind bars that are sweet and satisfying, and have more nuts than most candies, so your kiddos can have a sweet treat and feel full.
Candy Sweetened with Xylitol
Xylitol is used as an all-natural alternative to sugars and other sweeteners. In addition, to help cut the effects sugar has on the teeth, Xylitol helps stimulate saliva production.
More saliva means it’s easier for your mouth to wash away harmful sugars and bacteria until you’re able to brush, which helps cut down on cavities.
How to Take Care of Teeth on Halloween
After your kids enjoy a sweet treat, pay extra attention to their tooth brushing routine. In addition to brushing for 2 minutes and flossing between every tooth, here are extra tips to protect their teeth on Halloween:
- After indulging in sweet treats, it’s best to wait a bit before brushing. The acidity of some treats can soften the enamel, making them more prone to damage when they’re brushed.
- However, you don’t want to wait too long and let the sugar settle into their teeth. Wait to have your kids brush until about 30 minutes or more after their last treat.
- In the meantime, have your kids hydrate. The water and their saliva will help wash away the sugar until it’s time to brush their teeth.
- Avoid costumes with fake teeth. These can cause a buildup of bacteria in your kids’ mouth and cause bad breath.
- Remember to make sure you have an appointment with a kids dentist scheduled at least once every 6 months.
This Halloween, your kids deserve a treat. Help them enjoy the sweet treats of the holiday without worrying about cavities by staying away from sticky, hard, and acidic candy, and taking extra care to brush and floss afterward.