Kids love Halloween and, let’s not kid ourselves, even grownups can appreciate some Halloween fun in Flower Mound. Who doesn’t like crazy costumes and candy? Even dentists like candy…especially Dr. Duffy!
What pediatric dentists don’t like is the fallout that can occur from an unrestrained cascade of candy. Kids (and their parents!) can easily end up with stockpiles of candy that will turn a single day of celebration into an entire season of regular candy consumption.
The amount of sugar consumed in Halloween treats can lead to some disastrous consequences for little teeth, as well as other health risks posed by high amounts of sugar consumption. The bacteria in your mouth love candy even more than you do. They feed on the sugar in candy, metabolizing it to produce an acid that can cause tooth decay.
The latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that you get no more than 10 percent of your total calories from added sugars. That’s about 12 teaspoons each day if you’re following a 2,000-calorie diet.
But on an average day, Americans consume a whopping 17 teaspoons of added sugar. Kids ages 2-18 should have less than 25 grams or 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily for a healthy heart.
How can parents avoid the catastrophic consequences of colossal candy consumption? Don’t give up completely on candy just yet. Use Halloween as an opportunity to teach self-restraint and good decision making. It’s one day of the year; it’s the days following that tend to get us in trouble.
As your children’s dentist, I can tell you that it’s ok for them to enjoy some candy now and then. The key is to moderate their intake and keep up on dental hygiene.
The biggest problem with Halloween candy (from a dentist’s perspective) is the frequency and length of exposure to sugar. As long as they’re brushing twice per day and flossing daily, a little candy won’t hurt them.
It’s also important to choose the right candy. Some candies are better for your teeth than others.
To help you sort through the Halloween loot, we have a rundown of some common candy types and their impact on teeth. Before you let your children dive into all those KitKats, M&Ms and Twizzlers, consider some helpful strategies to keep them from turning into sugar monsters.
Types of Candy
Hard candies don’t just present a sugar problem — they also present a risk of damaging teeth or dental work. Don’t bite down on hard candy! This type of candy, even something like a sucker, can spend a long time in the mouth and greatly extend the exposure time of sugar.
If it’s sticky, it’s probably tricky. Caramels, tootsie rolls, and other sticky morsels can be among the worst for children’s teeth. They can get stuck on teeth, especially in crevices or between teeth. Sticky candy can damage dental work and even pull out teeth or crowns! If your child has braces, avoid sticky candy completely.
Sour stuff poses additional problems, especially if it’s also hard or sticky (think Warheads). Sour candy is usually very acidic and very bad for tooth enamel. If your kids go for some sour candy, it’s even more important to brush and floss after consuming it.
It’s not all bad news — chocolate is a good choice for candy! Chocolate is the most popular type of candy, and Americans will buy 90 million pounds of chocolate for Halloween. Chocolate cleans easily when brushing and it doesn’t tend to stick to the surfaces of teeth. Dark chocolate is an even better choice than milk chocolate, as it contains less sugar.
Happy Halloween, Flower Mound!
As you’re inspecting your children’s Halloween candy, help them make responsible choices about what they consume. Dedicated trick-or-treaters can easily get their paws on far more candy than would be reasonable to eat, so help your kids manage their excess candy. Regular cleanings and checkups at our pediatric dental practice can keep your children’s oral health in tip-top shape, even if they indulge in some Halloween candy.
Helping Kids Love Dentistry!
~Dr. Debra Duffy