Can you have a tooth-friendly Halloween? Yes! While kids look forward to Halloween each year, parents and dentists face the trick-or-treat ritual with dread. Halloween candy is not only unhealthy, it is also very bad for your child’s teeth. Although you might not want to keep your kids from enjoying their favourite Halloween activities altogether, there are a few things you should consider about the treat side of the holiday. Here is what you need to know about Halloween candy and your child’s teeth.
The Halloween Candy To Avoid
Kids are not going to love this list. If you want to be a real “stickler” for candy editing, these are the worst types of candy for your kids’ teeth:
- Sticky and Chewy Candies: Anything that is sticky and chewy like toffees and caramel, wreaks havoc on your child’s teeth. These treats stick to the teeth making it harder to remove when your tired ghouls and boys brush. Because it stays on the teeth longer, cavity-causing bacteria have more time to eat away at the teeth. It’s even worse if your kids have fillings or braces.
- Hard Candy: Hard candies don’t just stick to the teeth like sticky, chewy candies, but also increase the risk for your kids to damage their teeth. Hard candies pose a double threat: First, kids can bite down on them and break a tooth and second, kids might instead suck the candy, leaving it in their mouth longer so sugar collects in their saliva and throughout their mouth allowing bacteria to cause damage.
- Sour Candy: Sour candies are high in sugar, plus they contain acids that give them their sweet and sour appeal. Acids weaken the enamel of the teeth which can increase the risk for decay and cavities.
- Caramel Corn or Candy Coated Popcorn: This popular Halloween treat poses a triple threat: 1) Unpopped kernels are notorious for breaks, chips and cracks, 2) The hard caramel sticks to the teeth contributing to the bacteria we keep mentioning, and 3) There’s also the annoyance of getting popcorn husks caught between the teeth that smaller kids might not even notice. This can lead to decay, irritation, and possible infection.
Although you might think you can replace your chewy, sticky candies with healthy snacks like “real” fruit strips, or dried fruit, these are just as bad for teeth as candy. It’s the stickiness that causes the damage, not just the sugar in the candies – yes, even the natural sugar present in these “real” fruit snacks can wreak havoc. As mentioned, because of the stickiness it stays on the teeth longer, allowing bacteria to do its worst.
The Less Troublesome Halloween Candies And Treats
According to nutritionists, there are some “healthier” choices for Halloween snacks and candies including:
- Snack-Size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: These are delicious treats for kids without nut allergies. Yes, they contain sugar, but they are not too sticky, have some fiber and even some protein. As an added benefit, because of the fiber, your kids might eat less because they’ll feel fuller.
- Plain Chocolate: Plain chocolate is an excellent option because it doesn’t last long in saliva, isn’t chewy and often doesn’t have too much sugar depending on the brand. As a result, it reduces the risk for tooth decay compared to stickier treats.
- Kit Kat Minis: This combination of chocolate and wafers is another snack that is less likely to stick to the teeth. They are sweet and pleasing because they do contain sugar, but again, they aren’t too sticky so less likely to stay in the mouth too long.
- Chips: Various chips handed out at Halloween are also lesser evils. Kids also feel they’ve eaten more because it comes in a larger bag than the candies.
These are a few of the “healthier” choices found in the average treat bag.
Healthy Tooth-Friendly Halloween Tips
Some tips to keep your Halloween healthier include:
- Short trips: Instead of scanning block after block, limit your trip to a tighter radius so you don’t collect as much candy.
- Use a smaller bag: Along with a shorter route, using a smaller bag, or a small plastic jack-o-lantern basket can help reduce the amount of candy your kids collect.
- Set rules: Make sure kids know they can’t eat any candy until you check their bag. You can try to quietly remove some of the worst offenders before handing back the bag. This is also the best time to remove any candy they are allergic to.
- Limit treats to mealtime: To help manage how many treats your kids eat, only offer a treat following meals. This helps reduce the amount they eat each day and if you decide to let them have the less desirable candy at least it will be in smaller doses. Also, kids will be full after the meal so are also less likely to want to eat more.
- Toss cheap candies: Toss the cheaper candies like loose hard candies, random bags of candy corn, etc. as not only are these bad for the teeth, they’re also easier to tamper with.
- Choose a daily treat time: Don’t allow your child access to their treat bags. Keep them closed away so you can decide when and how much they can have each day.
- Rinse, don’t immediately brush and floss: If your child does have sticky candy, have them rinse with a glass of water to get rid of the sugar. Never have them brush or floss right away as this actually forces the sugar further into the teeth. Rinsing removes the harmful sugars and acids. Just be sure to have them thoroughly floss and brush before bed.
These tips will help reduce the amount of candy your kids get when out trick-or-treating, while also managing how much and when they indulge in their treats.
While Halloween is a fun holiday kids love, it does pose some challenges for parents. As with many things in life, everything in moderation is the best approach. It’s probably unrealistic to keep your kids from enjoying this annual tradition, as well as to think they never have access to candy. By using these tips you’ll at least help control how much sugar they eat.