Halloween can be a magical holiday. Seeing kids (or adults) in those adorable or terrifying costumes transports us to a make-believe world for one fun night per year. Besides the dressing up, candy is part of the holiday tradition. I found this out the hard way by trying to give out tooth friendly dental “prizes” instead of candy one year. I guess it’s all about expectations because the same toys that are treasured in my office brought disappointed faces at my door on Halloween. So what can we do to be good participants in this national event?
1) Give out candy and gum that list xylitol, a natural sweetener from fruit or birch trees, as the first ingredient. Ice Breakers gum is an excellent example. You can also purchase a huge variety of candy and gums from Dr. John’s Candy online www.drjohns.com . Xylitol in the proper amount per serving (1.55 grams) actually helps to PREVENT decay. Xylitol prevents decay by interfering with bacterial growth and by preventing bacteria from sticking to the teeth. We recommend 6 to 10 grams per day spread into 4 to 6 exposures for ideal prevention. Chewing xylitol gum after meals also helps prevent decay by raising the pH (makes the mouth less acidic) and increasing the flow of saliva.
2) Eat regular candy and other decay-causing foods with or right after meals, not as snacks. Each time the mouth is exposed to sugar or starch, bacteria produce acids for 20 minutes. It would be better to eat three pieces of candy rather quickly than eating one piece every 20 minutes. Acids produced by bacteria break down enamel allowing teeth to decay. Even brushing immediately won’t stop this process; it’s best to just avoid snacking on decay-causing foods.
3) Remember that starchy foods like pretzels and potato chips as well as dried fruit also cause decay. Starchy foods break down in the mouth into sugars that cause decay.
4) Minimize the time sugary and starchy foods are in the mouth. Sucking on candy bathes the teeth in sugar that leads to decay. Gummy candies, fruit roll-ups and starchy foods stick to the teeth prolonging the time they remain in the mouth.
5) Avoid biting into hard candy. I see many fractured teeth around Halloween and hard candy is the leading cause.
6) Avoid biting sticky candy if you have crowns (caps). We actually have a non-sweetened “candy” in the office that is DESIGNED to pull off crowns.
Have a safe and tooth-friendly Halloween!