Protect Your Child’s Teeth During Halloween
Now that the spooky season is looming large on the horizon, children all across the country are planning their costumes and looking forward to an abundance of free candy. Whether your children go trick-or-treating or attend a themed gathering, sweets are bound to be part of the picture — and it’s only natural for you, as a parent, to want to minimize any damage to your child’s teeth that may occur during the upcoming revelry. At the same time, you probably don’t want to spoil the spirit of the season by forbidding sweets altogether. Fortunately, strategies exist for mitigating the negative effect of sugary treats on little teeth. Following are a few tips and tricks designed to help parents in your position protect their children’s teeth during the Halloween season.
Provide Alternative Treats
Alternative treats such as stickers, small toys, party favors, sugarless gum, and small packages of raisins won’t do much to protect your own child’s teeth, but it sets a good example, and it might catch on as a neighborhood trend for future holidays. You also won’t have to worry about any leftovers adding to your child’s already significant stash of candy in the aftermath of trick-or-treating and/or Halloween parties.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), chewing sugarless gum reduces the risk of calories because it increases production of saliva. If it’s not possible for your child to brush and floss after eating candy, provide them with a piece of sugarless gum.
Minimize Sticky Treats and Hard Candy
Sticky treats such as taffy leave behind a residue that coats the surface of the teeth, creating a primary feeding ground for the types of bacteria that contribute to the development of tooth decay. The coating is also difficult to remove with regular brushing because the residue can get into difficult-to-reach areas in the mouth. Keep in mind that certain types of dried fruit, which are often considered a healthy alternative to candy, are sticky as well. Hard candy is another culprit when it comes to posing a hazard to dental health. Because they tend to remain in the mouth for a long time, their sugar has more opportunity to bond with the teeth. Hard candy may also cause tooth breakage when children bite down on it too hard.
Less harmful candy choices include small pieces of dark chocolate and sugarless candy. You can also serve milk when your child enjoys a piece or two of Halloween bounty — milk and other dairy protects help neutralize sugars and acids, stimulate saliva production, and contains minerals that help repair damage to tooth enamel.
Give your Child a Chance to Trade Up
It’s not unusual for children to amass a ridiculous amount of candy during an evening of trick-or-treating, and parents often feel powerless against cavities when this occurs. However, children will often gladly give up their candy for something more desirable. If your child has been longing for a specific item or a trip to a special place such as the zoo, make a deal to trade the majority of the candy for one of these. This way, you’re not taking any of the fun out of dressing up and attending a party or trick-or-treating while still minimizing the risk of your child’s teeth being damaged by too much candy.
Make Good Oral Hygiene a Part of Their Daily Routine
Teaching children good oral hygiene at an early age sets the stage for a lifetime of healthy habits. A piece of candy here and there isn’t going to make any difference to the big picture if your child is brushing and flossing as part of a regular routine. Keep in mind that younger children lack the fine motor skills necessary to do a good job of brushing their teeth, so you’ll have to help them until they’re able to do it on their own. By the time they are eight years old, most children should be able to brush their teeth on their own.
Consider Fluoride Treatment
Fluoride treatment is considered a safe, effective way to promote healthy teeth and gums among children. Typically referred to as a fluoride varnish, this is a topical treatment using a concentrated form of fluoride that is brushed onto teeth and allowed to remain for several hours so that it seeps into the tissues of the teeth, strengthening them and providing them with added protection against decay.
Fluoride varnishes can be applied up to four times per year and can be applied as soon as the child’s first tooth appears. Although the procedure is typically performed in the dentist’s office, pediatricians are also trained in how to do it so that they can apply fluoride varnishes to very young children who have not yet had their first appointment with a pediatric dentist.
Dental sealants are another option for parents seeking to provide their children’s teeth with protection against cavities. This procedure is usually performed when the child’s first permanent back molars emerge, which is typically between the ages of 5 and 7. As its name implies, dental sealants provide a barrier between the surface of the tooth and bacteria. Adults who are prone to cavities may be able to benefit from sealants as well, so consider this for yourself if you plan on enjoying sweet seasonal treats yourself.
Make an Appointment With Your Child’s Dentist
Be sure to schedule routine checkups with your pediatric dentist every six months. This helps catch emerging dental health issues before they become major problems — it’s far easier as well as less expensive to treat a small cavity than it is to wait until it destroys the tooth.
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