In between the scary costumes, spooky games and ghoulish treats, is it possible to protect your family's teeth from the 'horrors’ of Halloween?
According to Dr. Jennifer Collins, clinical director at Dental Care Ireland: "Many Halloween sweets and drinks contain high levels of sugar, which can ultimately lead to cavities and tooth decay."
"To protect teeth from long-term damage, it helps to be mindful of both the timing and frequency of sugary snacks. With some clever planning, however, it is possible to limit the scary effects of Halloween treats on your family’s fangs!"
#1 Filter the feast
Try to avoid treats that linger in the mouth, such as sticky sweets or hard candy canes. The length of time sugary food stays in your child’s mouth can affect tooth decay. A plain chocolate bar is an example of a less harmful option, as it is softer on the teeth and melts quickly in the mouth.
#2 Restrict treat frequency
Instead of grazing on Halloween treats throughout the day, try to limit sweet treats to mealtimes, such as straight after lunch or dinner. Saliva production increases during meals, which helps rinse away sugary food particles and can reduce the risk of cavities.
#3 Drink water
It is important for children to drink plenty of water to rinse away the sugar after eating Halloween treats. The water will help to dilute any acid attacks caused by sugary snacks. Try to avoid carbonated drinks and even some fruit juices or smoothies, which can be high in sugar and therefore lead to erosion of teeth.
#4 Try a mouth-cleanser
A small piece of cheese eaten after a treat will help return the mouth to its natural acid balance and reduce the chances of developing tooth decay. Alternatively, eating crunchy fruits and vegetables such as carrots, apples and celery will stimulate production of saliva, which in turn helps to wash away sugary foods.
#5 Back to basics
If teeth are exposed to more sugar than usual, maintaining a basic dental care routine is key for all the family. Ideally, brush twice per day for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste, especially last thing at night. To help remove food and plaque trapped between the teeth and gums, floss daily or use an interdental brush.
#6 Wait before brushing
After eating sugary treats, it is a good idea for children to wait 30 minutes before brushing. Some acidic foods soften your enamel, so if you brush right after eating them, you can risk damaging your enamel further while it is in a weakened state.
#7 Schedule an annual 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.
Dr Jennifer Collins is clinical director at Dental Care Ireland, a nationwide network of family dental practices. For further tips and advice on looking after your oral health, visit www.dentalcareireland.ie