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Your kids may be ready to indulge in sweet treats this Halloween, but don't let the holiday turn into an oral health nightmare. To keep your children's smiles safe from creepy cavities this season and all year-round, consider these tips from the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).
Don't Get Stuck
"Sticky, chewy candies are cavity-causing culprits," says AGD spokesperson Connie White, DDS, FAGD. "Gummies, taffy, caramel—they all get stuck in the pits and grooves of teeth, where it's nearly impossible for saliva to wash them away. The longer that candy remains stuck in the teeth, the higher the risk of developing cavities." Encourage children to brush their teeth following candy consumption. If a toothbrush isn't handy, says Dr. White, give them a glass of water to help swish away the sugars.
If the candy is sour, however, hold off on the brushing. Sour candy is likely acidic, so it's best to wait at least 30 minutes to an hour before brushing. The action of brushing can actually spread the acid onto more tooth surfaces, increasing its erosive action on tooth enamel.
Eat, Then Treat
On Halloween night, allow children to enjoy a few pieces of candy, but only after they've eaten a nutritious meal.
"Chewing during a meal stimulates saliva, which has protective enzymes and minerals to cleanse the teeth and protect against cavities," says AGD spokesperson Mark Malterud, DDS, MAGD. "Plus, eating before treating will give kids nice full tummies, tummies that might have a little less room for candy."
Do Your Part
When trick-or-treaters visit your home, pass out teeth-friendly treats. For example, sugar-free lollipops, hard candies, and chewing gum are better options than their sugary alternatives.
"Sugar-free gum actually can help prevent cavities," says Dr. Malterud. "Not only does it dislodge food particles from between the teeth, but it also increases saliva to help wash away the sugars."
"No matter what season it is, kids should be brushing their teeth for two minutes twice a day and flossing once a day," advises Dr. White. "It's especially important to brush before bedtime. Otherwise, sugars will linger on the teeth all night long, increasing their risk of cavities."
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