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Halloween and your Children’s Teeth

Typical Halloween candy treats can pack a nasty punch to your kid’s teeth. Hard candies, lollipops and chewy candy can cause the most damage. These candies can be a serious source of tooth decay, particularly when they get stuck in the crevices between teeth. Sour candies can be a problem as well. They are highly acidic and can break down tooth enamel quickly.

What about so-called “healthy” treats like raisins?

Dried fruit is also sticky and often gets caught between your teeth where it can linger for hours. Raisins, prunes and dried apricots fit into this category. Once these fruits have been dehydrated and dried, the sugar ratio is dramatically altered and the bacteria in one’s mouth can thrive.

The same is true of fruit juice. OJ, grapefruit, pineapple and other fruit juices can be packed with sugar. Even though it’s the natural kind that is supposedly better for you, the decay-causing bacteria in your mouth do not differentiate natural sugar from refined sugar. Plus, fruit juices also contain a lot of acid, and acid from any kind of food or drink–even nutritious ones–erodes tooth enamel.

Parents should also limit their children’s intake of carbonated soft drinks. These drinks are the leading source of added sugar among kids and teens. Besides being loaded with sugar, most soft drinks contain phosphoric and citric acids that erode tooth enamel.

Parents should also be cautious of sports drinks. Studies have found that sports beverages can damage tooth enamel–even more so than soda–due to a combination of acidic components, sugars, and additives. Even though sports drinks can help rehydrate your kids after a soccer game or other intense activity, prolonged consumption of these types of beverages can weaken the enamel, making teeth more susceptible to bacteria that can invade the cracks and crevices of the teeth.

What can I do to protect my child’s teeth?

The ADA offers these tips to help reduce tooth-decay risk from the foods you eat:

Consume sugary foods with other meals. Your mouth produces more saliva during meals, and this helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.

Limit between-meal snacks. If your children crave a snack, encourage them to choose something nutritious. Good food choices include firm/crunchy fruits (for example, apples and pears) and vegetables. These foods have a high water content which dilutes the effects of the sugars they contain and stimulate the flow of saliva, helping to protect against decay by washing away food particles and buffering acid.

Have your children cut down on the consumption of sports beverages they drink or have them dilute the drink with water. Avoid allowing your child to carry these drinks around with them. Sipping them all day supplies a steady stream of acid and sugar to their teeth consistently throughout the day.

Allow your children to chew sugarless gum after meals to increase saliva flow and wash out food and acid. Gums that contain the sugar substitute xylitol may even help to prevent cavities. Consider your child’s dental history before you encourage this practice as chewing gum may interfere with other dental work or may exacerbate existing jaw problems.

Proper oral hygiene can help. Make sure your children brush their teeth regularly, preferably after every snack and meal. Make sure that they floss and visit the dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings
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