Just how bad is it? Is it a lot of worry over nothing? Or is the dental health of Maine’s children truly hanging in the balance? The truth is - - it’s a little bit of all-the-above. Read further for some information on how to handle the onslaught of sugar that is headed our way this coming weekend.
Basic information on sugar and cavities
All foods potentially contribute to the formation of cavities. The important thing, say pediatric dentists, is how frequently a child eats. Every time food is eaten, bacteria in the mouth interact with the sugars to produce acid. The acid typically remains in the mouth for 20 minutes after eating either a snack or a full meal. This acid attacks the hard outer layer of the tooth (also called enamel) and can make holes (or cavities) on the surface of the tooth.
The damage to the teeth depends on how much sugar goes into the mouth and how long it stays there or is in contact with the teeth. Candy is not necessarily more likely to cause cavities than most other foods, but obviously, the sugar content is generally much higher and it tends to adhere to the teeth for longer. Most importantly, children who snack frequently suffer multiple acid attacks, and that can lead to tooth decay.
What dentists say about Halloween habits…
Here are some recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the Canadian Dental Association:
• Allow children to choose one or two pieces of candy after lunch and dinner since an acid attack is already underway due to the meal.
• Limit snacking to no more than three or four times a day. In addition to Halloween candy, choose snacks that contribute to overall nutrition and health. Snacks such as cheese, vegetables, yogurt and chocolate milk all are nutritious choices.
• Make sure children brush at least twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed. Encourage brushing after a particularly sticky or sugary snack.
• Avoid Halloween treats that stay in the mouth for a long time such as gum, suckers (or lollipops) and other hard candy.
• Avoid soft, sticky sweets that get stuck in the mouth such as toffee, raisins and rolled-up fruit snacks.
• Use the discussion about Halloween candy to promote a good diet in general - - one day a year of bad habits isn’t so bad if the rest of the time you family practices healthy dental habits!
Perhaps consider some alternatives to the usual sticky sugary syrupy sweets that usually adorn our doorstep on Halloween:
• Sugarless Gum
• Stickers and sticker books
• Miniature flashlights
• Fun jewelry (bracelets, rings, etc)
What the Chocolate Manufacturers Association and the
National Confectioners Association say about Halloween…
• Inspect all items in your child's trick-or-treat bag before any are consumed.
• Limit Halloween night consumption to avoid upset tummies from too much food and excitement
• Teach balance and moderation: Meals featuring plenty of fruits, vegetables and grains are nutritious and important; goodies from the trick-or-treat bag are for desserts or snacks.
• Limit snacking on all foods, brush teeth at least twice a day and floss. Remind parents that any food that contains starch or sugar, such as crackers or bread, can cause acid to form on teeth that can lead to cavities.
“ Fun” Halloween Facts
• In the United States, 93% of children ages 6-11 go Trick-or-Treating on Halloween
• Parents will spend an estimated 950 million dollars on Halloween candy this year
• 12 average Halloween treats are equivalent to eating 30 packets of sugar or guzzling 1 liter of soda
• Draculin, a blood-thinning drug developed from vampire bat saliva, helps prevent strokes and heart attacks in humans.
• The largest pumpkin ever grown was 1,446 pounds.
• A Milky Way has approximately 3 tsp of sugar in it, while an Almond Joy only has 2
• Since 1995, trick or treating in the town of Sandusky, Ohio, has been against the law for anyone older then 14.
• It is very rare for a full moon to occur at the same time as Halloween. It has only occurred in - 1925, 1944, 1955, and 1974. The next time it is said to occur is 31 October, 2020.
• The word Halloween appeared in the Dictionary in the 1700s.
• Dunking for apples arose from a practice of divining the future. It was believed that if you could hold an apple between your teeth you would have a fulfilling romance with whomever you choose.
• According to ancient superstitions, if you stare into a mirror at midnight on Halloween, you'll see your future spouse.
• The pumpkin is one of the best sources of Vitamin A
• Black cats were once believed to be witch's assistants who protected their powers.
• Orange and black are Halloween colors because orange represents the fall harvest, and black is associated with darkness and death.
So……...eat smart and know the facts! Not just on Halloween, but every day. Perhaps let Halloween be a special day when kids get some special treats and some special eating habits.
And then use the Halloween discussion to build on improved dental care and snacking habits for the rest of the year!!!