Trick or treat! Along with spooky surprises and creative costumes, this holiday is full of every dentist’s nightmare - piles of candy. Here are some of my quick tips to enjoy Halloween’s treats without getting a ghoulish grin:
- Have some tricks up your sleeve. I’m not just talking about spooky pranks! Planning some healthy Halloween strategies ahead of time will make it easier to keep the dental damage to a minimum. Before you go trick-or-treating, talk to your kids and plan a route, how you’ll sort candy when you get home, and how much they’re allowed to have. Setting expectations early will prevent banshee-like wailing later on.
- Indulge intentionally. Enjoy your treats after a balanced, healthy meal - distraction-free and take the time to savour your treat. I recommend this for two important reasons: first, savouring your treat right a meal means you’ll be less tempted to reach for more or snack distractedly. Second, frequent snacking leads to a higher risk of tooth decay because teeth are exposed to acids and sugars that cause enamel wear and cavities for an extended period of time.
- Keep the collection small and trade favourites. Rather than letting your kids collect a giant sack of candy, keep their sugary loot to a reasonable amount by only allowing them to collect a small amount. Once they’re back home, go through their collection and check for allergens, have them swap their favourites, and keep their collection small. In November, consider offering them an opportunity to swap remaining candy for a toy or passes to an attraction they’d enjoy!
- Treat your teeth kindly. Not all candy is made equally! Hard candies and sticky treats like taffies and gummy bears pose the greatest risk because they tend to linger in the mouth longer and stick to teeth - the length of time sugary and acidic foods are in your mouth influence rates of tooth decay. Try to choose sugar-free treats and brush and floss after indulging. If you can’t grab your toothbrush, swish and drink a glass of water to rinse away some of the sugars.
You don’t have to give up all of your treats (although many of my colleagues offer candy trade-ins!) to protect your dental health at Halloween. Emphasize balanced choices and consciously enjoying treats – set a good example for younger families and avoid digging into that tempting box of fun-size treats all night long!