Halloween is a dentist’s worst nightmare. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s certainly not any dentist’s favorite holiday of the year. Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered with my dental guide to surviving Halloween. While costumes and spooky stories are part of the evening, Halloween is first and foremost about candy, especially for sugar-loving kids. It’s not reasonable (or fun) to suggest that kids stay away from candy on Halloween entirely, so instead, just take some smart steps to make sure your kids’ teeth stay healthy and strong long past the holiday. Here are some steps you can take. (Note: This advice applies to adults who use Halloween as an excuse to indulge in sugary treats, too!)
Make a plan and stick to it
Some parents let their children indulge in all the candy they want on Halloween, figuring that it’s just once a year. Others restrict candy out to a certain number of pieces per day for a certain number of days. Whatever you do, remember that YOU are in charge of your child’s candy consumption and can take away anything you don’t want your child eating. Make a plan and stick to it.
Separate good candy and bad candy
Before your child attacks their haul, go through and pick out the most dangerous sweets. These include sticky, chewy, and gummy candies like caramels and taffy that get stuck to teeth and are hard to clean off. Hard candies like jawbreakers are also bad for teeth, as they can lead to chipped and cracked teeth, and sour candies may be the worst, as they’re not only sticky, they also erode enamel – a double whammy. You can toss these directly or participate in a Halloween candy buyback program. (Do an internet search to see if there are any in your local community.)
The good news is that chocolate candies and chocolate bars are not on this list. While they are, of course, high in sugar, there’s nothing that makes them especially bad for teeth.
Drink more water
Keeping the mouth moist with saliva and water is one of the best, and simplest, ways to combat tooth decay. Water helps wash away sugars and food particles from the surfaces of the teeth and helps with saliva production. Make sure that along with candy, kids are drinking plenty of water.
This goes without saying, but brushing on Halloween night after all that candy is a must. Make sure the little ones brush for the recommended full 2 minutes, reaching all areas of the mouth and surfaces of the teeth. And even if flossing isn’t a daily habit (which it should be), ensure that tonight, they floss. That will help get rid of the sugars and bacteria lurking between teeth, which can cause decay if left too long.
If you split up the candy across several nights, as many parents do, follow this routine each night. Even if you haven’t had to supervise your older child’s brushing habit in years, you can make an exception for a few nights to ensure this vital task gets done.
Maintain good habits the other 364 days of the year
One day is not going to make or break your child’s dental health, even if it’s a high-sugar day. It’s important that your children develop and maintain good oral hygiene habits throughout the year, including brushing twice a day (at least!) and flossing once a day. They should also understand the connection between the foods and drinks they consume and how that affects the health of their teeth. When they have good habits and good oral health the rest of the year, they can indulge a little and enjoy themselves on Halloween night.