As Halloween approaches, grinning jack-o’-lanterns are cropping up on neighborhood porches, kids of all ages are rushing to add the finishing touches to their costumes, and the candy supply at local grocery stores is steadily dwindling. Especially if you have children or live near families with little ones, you’re likely preparing for the annual trick-or-treating haul.
Now is the time to brush up on your oral hygiene knowledge to maintain good dental health for your child (and yourself… it’s hard to resist reaching into the candy bowl at any age!), even amid the influx of sweet treats.
Use a Straw
Milkshakes, soda, juice, and slushies are delicious in moderation, and even better when the contact they make with your teeth is limited. Your teeth and gums are sensitive to sugar and acidic drinks, so if you limit exposure, you’ll help reduce the damage these snacks will have on your teeth. This helps avoid stained teeth and tooth decay while protecting sensitive teeth.
Finish Meals with Calcium
Finishing meals with foods such as milk, nuts, yogurt, meats, and/or cheeses can help protect your enamel. These all coat your teeth with phosphorus and calcium, both of which are necessary for your teeth to “re-mineralize.”
Avoid Sticky Candy
Not all candy is created equal. While it may not be great for you in general, some candy is less harmful than others when enjoyed in moderation. Dark chocolate, for instance, may help fight tooth decay. Others, like Tootsie Rolls, are repeat offenders when it comes to compromising tooth health.
Candies like gumdrops (such as Dots), taffy (Laffy Taffy), and others with a sticky texture are some of the worst for your teeth. This is because they often leave behind a tacky residue on teeth which continues to wear down enamel long after you enjoy them.
Time Snacks Around Meals
Halloween candy or any sugary snack is best eaten with or just after mealtime. This is because your saliva production is increased during complete meals and helps clean off the sugary residue before it does more damage. The saliva directly cancels out much of the acids produced by sugar and bacteria in your mouth, and it rinses away food particles that would give rise to more bacteria.
While you could always carry a toothbrush around with you to use after eating, not everyone can or wants to do this. However, there are serious dental health benefits to cleaning up after meals. Using mouthwash after eating candy can remove the leftover sugar and remaining sticky gunk. It is best to use mouth rinses that have fluoride in them, but even swishing water around in your mouth can help when nothing else is available.
Similar to why you should try to eat candy close to meal times, chewing gum produces saliva that helps clean off the debris and sugar left over by candy. Using sugar free gum, then, doesn’t contribute anything that can harm your teeth. In fact, the xylitol found in several sugar free gum brands can have numerous dental benefits.
There is nothing stopping you or your kids from enjoying your favorite snacks after a night of trick-or-treating. It all comes down to knowing how to take care of your teeth while enjoying sweet treats in moderation and doing what you can to minimize potential damage.
Don’t forget the basics! Regularly brushing, flossing, and visits to your dentist are part of any proper oral care routine. To learn more about how your food affects your oral health, learn the best and worst foods and drinks for your teeth.