https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/crop_404_418_2680_2856,scaleFit_590_noupscale/5813d55d190000ee02c2fb39.jpgHalloween means the chance for children to dress-up, stretch their imaginations, and have fun trick-or-treating with friends. It also means lots of candy - and that can mean a trip to the dentist if parents aren't careful.
A new survey from the National Retail Federation predicts that Americans will spend $2.5 billion on Halloween candy this year. While children find delight in the treats of the season, dentists also caution parents about the damage those sweets can cause to teeth over time.
Jonelle Grant-Anamelechi, DDS, MSPH, an attending faculty member and pediatric dentist at Children's National Health System, says that practicing good dental hygiene year round is important, and it's especially important for parents to remain vigilant during times like Halloween. To help families, Dr. Grant-Anamelechi has the following tips for helping kids teeth stay cavity-free during Halloween and beyond.
1. Steer Clear of Chewy Candies - Caramel, gummies, or chewy sweets like fruit snacks are among the most harmful Halloween treats for oral health. These types of candies are particularly dangerous because they can smear and become lodged in between teeth and stick to teeth's deeper grooves. When this happens, it's harder for saliva and the tongue to naturally clear away the sugary residue, which can lead to cavities.
2. Beware of Hard Candies That Can Cause Breakage - Around Halloween, dentists also commonly see a spike in broken teeth caused by biting into hard candies, such as lollipops. These types of candies are almost as hard as children's teeth, and when bitten into can cause or worsen existing tooth sensitives.
3. Treat Yourself to (Dark) Chocolate - Dark chocolate, a favorite for many parents to keep around the home, is rich in antioxidants and serves as a great substitute for other Halloween treats. Parents should also consider replacing sticky, chewy treats with items such as crackers and pretzels, or other small toys. Some parents give children the option of switching out candy for a small toy using The Switch Which book.
4. An Apple a Day May Help Keep the Dentist Away - Because avoiding all sweets isn't likely, eating an apple after enjoying Halloween candy can also reduce the risk of developing cavities. Apples are considered "nature's toothbrush," and snacking on the fibrous fruit can help to quickly whisk away cavity-causing debris from teeth when a toothbrush is out of reach.
5. Make Brushing a Family Activity - Oftentimes children want to start brushing their teeth on their own around ages 4 or 5. However, it isn't until ages 7 or 8 that they usually develop the right technique. On occasions like Halloween when a child might have consumed larger amounts of candy, parents should help with brushing. Use small, circular motions to reach the gums, as brushing in a straight line can just push debris from one tooth to the next. And, don't forget the tongue, which harbors food and germs.
6. Go on an Adventure or Sing a Song - It can be challenging to keep children interested in brushing their teeth for the recommended two minutes. Try turning teeth brushing into an imaginative safari adventure - such as searching for an alligator or lion behind teeth. Singing a familiar song twice, such as Happy Birthday, also helps children stay focused on brushing for the recommended time.
7. Connect Dental Hygiene With Whole-Body Health - While parents commonly remind their children to wash their hands before eating or after playing outside, there is frequently a disconnect with including the mouth - and the germs it harbors - as a contributor to overall health.
And remember, November 1st is National Brush Day, which is a great time to review good brushing habits with your children.