Thursday, October 29, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Scary Tooth Tales and Tips for a Healthy and Happy Halloween

What is the scariest thing I ever saw in someone’s mouth, a young boy at a school I was visiting once asked me. My answer: nothing. No teeth. From years of dental neglect, the patient had dentures.
I want candy!

I tell kids that plaque is like a ghost. Like other germs you can’t see it, at first, but plaque will make its presence known. The teeth start to look yellow and feel fuzzy, the breath starts to stink.  So when plaque moves in, the sooner you get rid of it, the better since plaque causes other trouble, too – rotten teeth and bloody gums. Your toothbrush and floss are your daily plaque fighting friends. If plaque germs are ignored, they get really stubborn and then you’ll need help from the plaque and cavity hunters – your dental hygienist or dentist.

But enough scary stories. Halloween is fun for both children and adults and is really all about the candy.
Here are some ways to enjoy your Halloween and keep your mouth healthy:
  • Go ahead and have some candy. It’s a holiday, after all, the best reason to indulge a little.
  • Brush your teeth or have your children brush their teeth BEFORE they break into their goody bags. This removes the plaque germs, which in combination with sugar causes cavities. The less plaque, the less acid being formed. Brush again after treats to remove the sugar from the mouth and teeth. It doesn’t take long for plaque to grow again. (For more on how cavities form see my post at
  • Avoid sticky, chewy candies. These stick to the teeth and are hard to get off even with brushing: Think tootsie rolls, jelly beans, candy corn, fruit rolls, fruit chews. (There is nothing “fruit” about them except the name and maybe the shape or color.)
  • Even worse: “sour” candies. Not only sticky and sugary, these have lots of acid in them, too. Combining candy and soda is also bad for the same reason.
  • If your children are young, you control the candy. You’re going to check it before you let them eat it anyway, so ditch the really sticky stuff. Candy that dissolves fast and rinses easily with water, like chocolate or pixie sticks, are better. Chocolate, especially the dark kind, has less sugar and at least a smidgen of health benefits from the cocoa.
  • Consider giving trick-or-treaters sugar-free gums or lollipops, or non-snack items like stickers, tattoos, pens, pencils, small pads, little toys, etc. When I was a kid there was a lady that gave out pennies, nickels, dimes and, sometimes, quarters! We all have a big jar of change somewhere in the house, don’t we?
  • See if your local pediatrician or pediatric dentist has a candy “buy back” program. Offices that do this will exchange candy for non food “treasures” or sometimes even money.
  • On October 31, unwrap a new toothbrush for yourself and your child. When shopping for Halloween candy, buy floss. Holidays can become an opportunity to get into the habit to do something healthy for yourself and your family.
  • Have sugar-free gum around to “wean” yourself off the sugar the day after Halloween. For myself, this is key. It’s so hard to stop when the yummy stuff is around.
Holiday season, here we go!

This blog is not intended to treat or diagnose any condition. Please see your doctor or dentist if you need treatment. I want candy! photo: Y. Mikalopas