Halloween is a favourite time of year for children when they get dressed up in their Halloween costumes and trick or treat around their neighbourhood to gather sweets galore! Dr Paul O’Dwyer, group clinical advisor at Dental Care Ireland shares six tricks to protect children’s teeth from treats this Halloween.
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Many of the food and drinks that we indulge in over Halloween are particularly acidic, and can lead to erosion of teeth. With some advance planning, however, it is possible to avoid adding tooth decay or bad breath to your nightmare list, and still maintain a healthy mouth between treats.
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How to Protect Your Teeth from Treats
#1. Wash Down Halloween Treats with Water
After indulging in Halloween treats, it is important to drink plenty of water to rinse away the sugar. The water will help to dilute any acid attacks caused by sugary snacks.
Wherever possible, try to replace treats such as sweets and chocolate, with Halloween-themed fruit alternatives. Avoid fruit drinks and smoothies that can appear to be healthy but often tend to be high in sugar and therefore impact on dental decay.
#2. Restrict Intake of Halloween Treats
Before your child indulges in any of their treats, go through their treat bag and remove particularly sticky sweet treats!
Instead of letting them graze on Halloween treats throughout the day, ration the sweet snacks and use as dessert after a meal. Saliva production increases during meals, which helps rinse away sugary food particles and can reduce the risk of cavities.
Before “trick or treating”, it is a good idea to ensure that children eat a healthy meal first.
#3. Beware of Hidden Sugars
The length of time sugary food stays in your mouth can affect tooth decay. Avoid treats that tend to linger in the mouth, such as hard candy canes or sticky sweets, as they will do the most damage to teeth.
The dried fruit in seasonal favourites such as barmbrack is also high in sugar and likely to stick to teeth, so keep those treats to a minimum. Manage the frequency of snacking to avoid damage to your teeth.
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#4. Be Fearful Of Fangs
It is important to be cautious of Halloween costumes that may impact dental health, such as fake teeth or prosthetics.
Read the labels carefully to avoid any potential choking hazards for children. For younger children, who are losing baby teeth, it is best to avoid wearing any false teeth or fangs, in case tooth loss may be accelerated.
#5. Remember Your Routine
As teeth may be exposed to more sugar and acid during Halloween, maintaining a basic dental care routine at home is key for all the family. Ideally, brush twice per day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, and drink plenty of water.
After eating sugary treats, a good tip is to wait 30 minutes before brushing. Some acidic foods soften your enamel, so if you brush right after eating them, you can risk hurting your enamel further while it is still sensitive.
#6. Schedule an Annual Dental Exam
The mid-term break is a good reminder to schedule a family dental appointment if you have not already done so this year. The best way to prevent dental worries is a regular dental examination, and a thorough cleaning routine. Regular check-ups can help to avoid unnecessary pain and minimise unexpected dental costs in the longer-term.
Dr Paul O’Dwyer BDS, MSc is group clinical advisor at Dental Care Ireland, an Irish-owned network of local dental practices nationwide.
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