October Game Plan from a Dentist Dad

Jamie J. Alexander on October 7, 2015

Q: What time is it when you see costumes, a house and candy—and hear “trick-or-treat”?

A: Halloween!

Halloween is Coming Up – Uh Oh!

Halloween is one of those times of year when dentists and doctors gear up for patient complaints and problems associated with an overload of sugar and tooth injuries. You can read many blogs on this topic this month, but there are just 3 things important I’d like you to remember.

  1. If an edible Halloween treat is hard, it can crack teeth.
  2. If an edible Halloween treat is sticky, the sugar is difficult to remove with casual brushing and sets up an environment for bacterial growth and tooth decay.
  3. If you or your child are frequently snacking on candy or other sugary snacks‑without thoroughly cleaning your mouth soon afterwards, you are setting up an environment for bacterial growth and tooth decay.

I believe in having fun, and my own children are going to participate in Halloween festivities. But in my home, we are preplanning to examine treats given to our children, minimize sugar overload, and actively supervise teeth cleaning. We’ll also be thoughtfully selecting the treats we share with others.

My Top Tips for Halloween Season

Let’s have a little fun at the end of this month but keep in mind my top tips for the season.

  1. Review the candy your kids collect. Trade hard, sticky candies (and even soft ones like gummy worms and candy corn that are composed of little more than sugar and artificial flavors and colors) for better treats you have ready for swapping.
  2. What “better” treats are we going to purchase for giving and trading? We’re selecting age appropriate pocket toys, decorated school supplies, plastic jewelry, and a few healthier bagged chips and crackers. We don’t suppose this will satisfy the candy bar cravings of teenagers but our younger children will be delighted.
  3. With teens (and you adults) in mind, I recommend candies containing nuts, like Peanut M&M’s and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as they supply some nutrition and are safe for older children and adults without nut allergies. But…stay away from sticky Butterfingers and any form of taffy. These are particularly hard on tooth enamel.
  4. Parents have a tendency to let down their guard and dip into the candy themselves at this season. Control yourself and your child’s access to candy…perhaps, allow one treat per day, and extend the fun until you are tired of it.
  5. Be vigilant about your child’s teeth cleaning after eating candy. Their (and our adult) tendency is to do a light, quick brushing and dash on to the next activity in our busy lives. Be intentional.
  6. Serve lots of nutritious snacks and food at meals so your child (and you) crave less sugar. Intentionally serve full and well balanced meals during the week of and after Halloween.