This October whether your kids are attending Halloween parties or trick or treating in the neighborhood, keep on the lookout for ghosts, goblins and worst of all, Mouth Monsters (also known as tooth decay). Ginger Bite-Us, Tartar the Terrible and Tooth D.K. love little teeth covered in candy. Sweets can still be part of the fun on Halloween as long as parents and caregivers help their children practice moderation and proper oral hygiene to keep their mouths healthy.
Below are some ideas you can incorporate into your festivities to scare the Mouth Monsters away but still keep Halloween full of fun.
Beware of the Mouth Monsters’ Favorite Treats!
After a night of candy collecting, kids love to dive into their stash and begin sorting. Before they get started, remember that not all sweet treats impact teeth in the same way. Download the grid below to help guide kids towards more tooth-friendly treats through sorting goodies according to which are best and worst for your kids’ pearly whites, including:
- Candy to avoid includes gummies, caramels and sour candies. The chewy, sticky candies get stuck in the grooves and crevices of the teeth making it hard for saliva to wash them away which leads to tooth decay. Sour candies have a high acidity content which breaks down tooth enamel, making teeth susceptible to a Mouth Monster invasion.
- Better choices include milk chocolate and snack-size packets of pretzels or crackers. These options are less sticky and do not have high acidity, therefore are less harmful to teeth than gummies, caramels or sour candies. However, it’s important to limit snacking overall because a child’s dental health depends less on what they eat and more on how often they eat it.
- Best options for a sweet treat include sugar-free gum and dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants like tannins, polyphenols and flavonoids that can inhibit bacteria from sticking to the teeth, preventing infections in gums and battling tooth decay. Sugar-free gum made with xylitol promotes the growth of tooth-protective, non-acidic bacteria which can make it difficult for bacteria and plaque to form.
Finally, for those who are passing out tricks and treats, remember non-food favorites like temporary tattoos, stickers and glow-sticks are great alternatives.
Swish and Brush!
Let’s face it – most kids don’t look forward to Halloween for the sugar-free gum and dark chocolate. And that’s ok. If kids are indulging in any kind of candy, ensure they drink plenty of water after eating the treat. Encourage them to swish the water around in the mouth to help dislodge particles that can get stuck and encourage the Mouth Monsters to latch onto tiny teeth.
And whatever you do, don’t let your young ones go to bed before brushing and flossing if all sides of a tooth cannot be cleaned by brushing alone. It’s a busy, exciting time, but as is the case with every other day of the year, kids should brush their teeth for at least 2 minutes, twice a day.
Set a Limit and Sell the Rest!
Set the number of treats that your child can keep – you may even want to select a number they can keep from each of the three categories of the sorting grid – and encourage them to sell the rest to a local dentist candy buy-back program. Most dentists participating in a Halloween buy-back program will pay $1 per pound of candy, which is then shipped out in care packages for U.S. soldiers serving overseas. Find a pediatric dentist near you by clicking here, and then inquire whether they are participating in a similar program during the first week of November.
To start a conversation about healthy tooth habits now, download the Mouth Monster coloring pages below for a fun arts activity and talk to your child about what they can do to avoid them. Encourage them to color and pose for a picture with their favorite monster while proudly showing their Monster-Free Mouth. Share your little ghost and goblin’s photo on AAPD’s Facebook page – featured here.