Practicing good dental hygiene is important all year long, but when Halloween rolls around, the holiday can present some challenges for parents. Knowing that kids are anxious to dive into that bucket of candy loot, or over-do it at the neighborhood monster bash, those handing out the goodies at the door (as well as those throwing the party) can make some healthy choices ahead of time, to help keep the cavity goblins away.
Avoid very hard, chewy, or sour candies. Caramels, gummies, or taffy (unless they’re sugar free), and even healthier dried fruits can stick to teeth, and lead to tooth decay. The longer a sugary or sour treat is in your mouth, the longer it lingers to bring on the bacteria that craves eating that sugar (and any food left over) to create acid build-up. That does a number on teeth enamel, and is a cavity waiting to happen, so it’s important to rinse, brush, and floss right after eating (and at least morning and night). Parents should also avoid hard candies for children as they can pose choking hazards.
Dark chocolate! Indulge (a little). Dark chocolate (go for at least 70 percent cocoa; the darker, the better) has been touted to have anti-inflammatory benefits. In moderation (about 3.5 ounces daily), dark chocolate is better for you, with less sugar, than milk chocolate. The American Dental Association also says that it washes off teeth easier than candy. (White “chocolate” doesn’t contain chocolate at all; only some cocoa butter with no cocoa solids, and the rest made up of hydrogenated oils and sugar. Boo to those!)
The problem with popcorn balls. Plain popcorn is a healthy snack, and small amounts at the door or at a house party are okay. (Tie-up cellophane bags with orange and black ribbon dangling “spider” toys!) But popcorn balls covered in sugary caramel can be a sticky situation for in between teeth or between the teeth and gums.
Give out sugarless gum (or include it in your party favor package with a glow-in-the dark toothbrush). Chewing sugar-free gum (especially 20 minutes after meals) increases saliva to wash away food and neutralize the acids caused by bacteria in your mouth and teeth.
Swap out sweetened punch or soda for fresh fruit-enhanced water or seltzer. Sliced limes, oranges, or pineapple means kids can stay hydrated, and still get their flavor on!
From creating clementine pumpkins (think mini pumpkins with celery stick stalks) to ghostly bananas (upright bananas with berry or chocolate chip “eyes”), you can find more healthy ideas online for your spook fest that are just as fun — but without the scary threat of harming teeth!
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano