While this week is full of ghouls and goblins, for dental professionals the real scare comes is thinking about all the tooth decay resulting from snickers, skittles and that weird orange and black wrapped taffy. With a little moderation and common sense our kids can still enjoy Halloween without putting their teeth at risk. In fact, Halloween can be a time to teach your children good oral health habits for life!
The number one rule, DON’T deprive your children of the Halloween experience solely because of an aversion to sugar. If you deprive children of sugar it will make candy seem even more irresistible. This could lead to binge eating candy if they get hold of it, for fear that they will never be allowed to have candy again. If candy is given forbidden fruit status, when children grow up they may begin eating too much candy once they’re out on their own. Instead, let the kids enjoy Halloween and all of its sweet and scary parts but make sure ground rules are established.
Establish a reasonable amount of candy for the kids to have. It is safe to say that hauling home three pillowcases bulging with processed sugar is not at all healthy. Remember, all things in moderation. Have your child sort through their stockpile and select the candy they want to keep. Perhaps parents could use this as a time to talk about the less fortunate and the concept of giving to those who have less (or to parents with a sweet tooth). There are several food banks in Knoxville, along with other charitable organizations, who will accept candy donations to distribute to those less fortunate.
The message should not be “candy is bad,” but that candy and other sweets, in excess, can lead to cavities. Tell your child about fruits and vegetables and the benefits of healthy eating. Teach them to eat treats in moderation. Candy consumption shouldn’t be an all-day event. By helping your children decide when to snack and what amount they will build a sound decision tree for life.
Make sure you talk about the importance of good oral hygiene. Tell your kids about the cavity bugs that use sugar to eat holes in teeth. Hopefully that will scare them more than all the mummies and goblins. Teach children that it is very important that they brush their teeth after eating candy to sweep away the sugar and cavity bugs. This is in addition to their usual morning and night brushing routine. Remember, if your child is under 7 an adult should monitor the brushing and give a quick follow-up brush to ensure that everything is squeaky clean.
Life is too short to not enjoy events like Halloween (who doesn’t love Knoxville’s BOO at the ZOO). However, life is to long to go at it without teeth. Establishing good dietary habits and sound oral healthcare will ensure that you and your children enjoy life with a bright, healthy smile.