Trick or Treat this Halloween? Moderation is key

Trick or Treat this Halloween? Moderation is key


CHICAGO—Parents can allow their children to enjoy the treats of Halloween without the tricks of unnecessary dental care by following a few simple rules, according to the Chicago Dental Society.

“Dentists are not opposed to eating candy, if it is done in moderation and in a way that minimizes the damage done by plaque attacks,” says Alice Boghosian, DDS, a general dentist who practices in Niles, Ill., and who serves as a CDS spokesperson. “Most snacks promote tooth decay. But research indicates that the important issue is not necessarily how much is eaten, but when.”

The Chicago Dental Society has issued the following guidelines to help keep kids from taking unnecessary trips to the dentist:

1. Carefully inspect all items collected while trick-or-treating. “Parents should determine how much candy their children have collected, as well as what kind of candy,” said Dr. Boghosian. “Sadly, parents must also check candy to ensure that it has not been tampered with.”

2. Put candy in a place where it can be easily monitored. “Parents should take an active part in monitoring the amount of candy their children consume. Children should not be allowed to keep candy in their rooms where they can snack away at will,” says Dr. Boghosian. Also, he says, “children should not be allowed to eat candy before going to bed. The saliva that normally serves as a protective barrier by gently washing away food particles becomes less active when children are sleeping, allowing candy to penetrate a tooth’s defenses.”

3. Try to avoid the occurrence of between-meal snacks, but when they do happen, consider tooth-friendly snacks such as fruit, nuts or popcorn. “Unfortunately, not many people give kids these kinds of snacks, but they are better from a dental perspective,” says Dr. Boghosian. “For example, popcorn is a good alternative to sweet or sticky snacks because it is high in fiber, contains protein and iron, has no sugar and is low in calories. But pop-corn balls are bad because of the sugars used to bind them together.”

4. Restrict candy to be eaten after meals, followed immediately by brushing

and flossing. “When you eat a meal, your teeth get hit by a plaque attack, acids from the sugars in candy cause bacteria to form that eat away at teeth and the supporting structures. By eating candy immediately after a meal, kids experience only one plaque attack. When kids snack, they experience a separate plaque attack. Continuous plaque attacks do a lot of damage over time.”

Some parents may want to give trick-or-treaters healthy snacks. “I advise parents to give sugar-free gum or treats, or even fruits such as apples or bananas,” says Dr. Boghosian. Parents, she notes, have begun to consider innovative alternatives. “Some parents give coupons for items at local stores or restaurants. Some give coloring books with crayons, or activity books. Some give items such as face painting, plastic rings or small wind-up toys. Kids appreciate these items, and they have much more fun in the long run, I believe.”

Dr. Boghosian has even talked several parents into giving toothbrushes and small tubes of toothpaste. But, she concludes, you can’t raise a child and take away everything that is fun. “The keys are moderation and parental involvement,” she concludes.

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