I am a dentist as well as being a mum and as such I will not be denying my son any involvement in the fun of Halloween. I’m not likely to take him out ‘trick or treating’ this year purely because I won’t get back from work in time but it is definitely something he will be able to take part with in the future.
Does that shock you?
I am not against children enjoying sweets and treats but I am a great believer in moderation and by following a few suggestions the impact on your child’s teeth can be minimised.
In my line of work it is hard to see children suffering as a result of toothache caused by cavities in the teeth and as parents it is our responsibility to make sure that our children’s teeth are cared for. Dental decay is a preventable disease and here are my top tips for trick or treating;
1. Limit how many treats your kids can get
It’s useful to let children know before you head out if there are going to be boundaries. Limits can be set in ways such as using a small bag instead of a bucket or specifying that children can only have one treat from each house they visit with a maximum number of houses.
If you don’t want to set limits before you go then ‘ weeding out’ can take place when you get home. Removing any sweets you see as particularly troublesome and asking your kids to choose their favourites then removing the rest would be one way of managing it.
It is very tempting to keep any leftover sweets lying around, but your teeth will be grateful if your stash is limited. Any leftover sweets could be put away for another occasion, given away or dished out gradually e.g. 1-2 sweets as part of dinnertime over a few days
2. Eat all in one go and stick to the 5:2 rule
Slowly grazing sweets over a long period of time increases the risk of damage to the teeth. It is much better to eat everything all in one go so th3 teeth can work on repairing themselves.
Try to make sure that snacking during the rest of the day has been kept to a minimum. Brushing the teeth twice a day for 2 minutes with a fluoride toothpaste protects the teeth against 5 ‘meal moments’ or acid attacks during the course of a day e.g. 3 main meals and 2 snacks.
3. Go for chocolate over chewy, sticky or suckable sweets
When eaten all in one go chocolate has a short exposure time with the teeth and doesn’t tend to linger in the nooks and crannies.
Chewy sweets have a longer exposure time and tend to get stuck in all the grooves meaning that the ability for them to cause harm to the teeth is increased.
Hard, suckable sweets and lollipops have a long exposure time with the teeth and when crunched up also have the ability to longer in the fissures.
4. Respect the golden hour before bed
Trick or Treating is best done as early as possible (but ideally on a full stomach) to allow as much time between eating all the sweets and bedtime! It is best to avoid eating anything in the hour before heading to bed so that saliva can dissolve any remnants and the teeth can work on repairing themselves.
5. Brush before bed (but try to leave it at least half an hour after eating)
If it is a late night and the kids are tired out by all the excitement it is very important not to be tempted to miss that bedtime brushing session.
Do make sure that it is at least half an hour since last eating (if the golden hour has been respected then all will be well) before brushing the teeth. The reason for this is the teeth need time to reach a neutral pH after being exposed to sugar which creates an acidic environment otherwise brushing the teeth can damage teeth that are in a weakened state.
I’m not a complete killjoy and I hope I’m not a fun sponge but it really is important to consider the impact that sustained exposure to sugar can have. So do enjoy your trick or Treating but take care of those teeth so they will last a lifetime!!