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Halloween and candy go hand in hand. Unfortunately, so do cavities! All those sweet treats, candies, and chocolate can wreak havoc on your child’s oral health. Fortunately, there are things you and your child can do to survive Halloween and avoid an unfortunate trip to the dentist.
In this article, we’ll cover our nine top tips for scaring away the cavity monster this Halloween and maintaining your child’s oral health.
Don’t forget to also schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatric dentist in Toronto for a post-Halloween cleaning and checkup.
Understanding What Causes Cavities
It’s commonly understood that consuming sugary snacks and beverages can lead to the development of cavities. However, the actual process is more complex than that.
Whenever you eat or drink, some residue sticks to your teeth. The sugars, starches, and other debris feed the bacteria that exist naturally in the mouth. As this occurs, the bacteria produces an acid and a biofilm that coats the teeth to form plaque. Plaque traps acids, sugars, and bacteria against the teeth.
Over time, acid eats away at the tooth enamel, causing tiny holes and openings. In healthy teeth, the enamel protects the inner tooth from damage. However, damaged enamel allows bacteria and acid to attack the dentin within the tooth. This physical deterioration of the tooth is called tooth decay or a cavity.
Although consuming foods high in sugar can accelerate this process, sugar is not the sole culprit. Poor oral hygiene also spurs the development of cavities. When you or your child forget to brush your teeth, you miss out on an essential opportunity to remove the sugars and starches that feed oral bacteria.
Remember, tooth decay can happen anytime—not just during Halloween.
How to Prevent Halloween Cavities
1. Brush twice daily
A robust oral hygiene regime is your child’s best defence against cavities. Brushing removes any sugar stuck to their teeth, thus protecting their soft enamel from tooth decay.
This Halloween, make sure your child is brushing twice daily for two minutes with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. You should also replace their toothbrush every three to four months.
2. Remind your child to floss
Flossing is an essential part of maintaining good oral health. After all, even brushing often fails to clean the tight areas between the teeth. Your child should floss once a day to remove food debris, sugars, and bacteria from these hard-to-reach places.
3. Moderate candy consumption
Moderation can be a real challenge when children have overflowing bags of candy at their fingertips. Nonetheless, limiting and slowing down your child’s consumption of candy is beneficial for their oral health. Set up some rules on when your child can enjoy their Halloween treats and how much they can have at a time.
4. Enjoy Halloween treats with meals
Timing is hugely important when it comes to indulging in sweet Halloween treats. The right timing can help reduce the risk of tooth decay, and the best time for your child to enjoy a piece of candy or chocolate is with their meals or immediately afterward.
During mealtime, our mouths produce extra saliva automatically. The saliva then helps rinse away leftover bits of candy, as well as the cavity-causing sugars and acids. Consequently, consuming candy alongside a full, healthy meal is better for your child’s oral health.
5. Drink water after every sweet treat
After eating something sweet, drinking water will also help wash away any lingering sugar or debris. These sugars would otherwise cling to the teeth, potentially leading to the development of tooth decay. Therefore, encourage your child to rinse their mouth with water as soon as they’re finished enjoying a piece of candy or chocolate.
Rinsing with water is better than brushing immediately after eating. This is because the saliva produced while eating weakens the tooth enamel, so brushing too soon can actually damage the enamel. Drinking water doesn’t, and it keeps your child hydrated.
Additionally, water is far better for your child’s oral health than a sugary beverage. Drinks that are high in sugar are just as bad as candy.
6. Don’t snack on sugary foods
Frequent snacking can put your family at risk for tooth decay. Snacking on sugary treats, however, is even worse. The best time for your child to enjoy their Halloween treats is at mealtime, so discourage them from snacking in between meals. Otherwise, you may have to contend with the cavity monster.
Instead of candy, offer your peckish child something healthy like nuts, fruit, vegetables, or crackers.
7. Skip sticky, hard, or sour candy
Some candy is worse than others. Sticky, sour, and hard candies are especially bad for your child’s oral health. These types of candies have a much higher likelihood of causing cavities.
Sticky candies, like taffy and caramels, cling to your teeth. Since the residues are harder to remove, they elevate cavity risks. Hard candies, though, stay in the mouth longer, which is bad for your child’s teeth. As the candy slowly dissolves, it coats the teeth in sugar.
Lastly, sour candies are highly acidic. This acid attacks the tooth enamel, promoting tooth decay.
8. Try sugar-free alternatives
It’s unlikely that you will be able to steer your child away from all candy and chocolate this Halloween. However, you can help lower their sugar intake by swapping some of their spoils for sugar-free alternatives.
Additionally, you can also give out sugar-free candy to trick-or-treaters. You will be the neighbourhood hero amongst other parents for defending against the cavity monster!
9. Donate excess candy
Just because your child collected an overflowing bag of candy does not mean that they need to eat all of it. Many communities have candy buyback programs and charities that distribute candy to children who were less fortunate this Halloween. Have your child pick out their favourite candy to keep and say farewell to the rest.
Visit a Pediatric Dentist in Toronto for a Post-Halloween Cleaning
Halloween is a tough time for children’s oral health. Increased sugar consumption and frequent snacking can lead to tooth decay. Fortunately, you can reduce the chance of cavities by ensuring your child continues caring for their teeth by brushing twice daily, drinking plenty of water, and only enjoying their sweet treats at meals.
Of course, you should also keep regular appointments with your child’s pediatric dentist at Bloor West Smiles in Toronto. Routine checkups and professional cleanings are also hugely important in preventing cavities from developing. We look forward to seeing you and your entire family for a post-Halloween cleaning!