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How to have a tooth-friendly Halloween

Is thinking about Halloween candy and its effect on your children's teeth enough to give you the chills?

Don't despair — you can be mindful of your child's health and still let them enjoy the special occasion, dentists say.

The decay process in teeth works like this: The majority — about 90 percent — of all foods contain sugars or starches that enable bacteria in dental plaque to produce acids. This attack by bacterial acid, lasting 20 minutes or more, can lead to a loss of tooth mineral and, eventually, to cavities.

A child who licks a piece of hard candy every few minutes or sips a sugary drink is more susceptible to tooth decay because long-lasting snacks create an acid attack on teeth the entire time they are in the mouth. Thus, one approach would be to allow your ghosts and goblins to indulge in Halloween candy at mealtime instead of as a snack.

Or choose the right kind of snack. Research from the Forsyth Dental Center shows that some sticky foods clear from the mouth faster than less sticky foods — posing a shorter acid attack on the teeth. Caramels, for example, dissolve more quickly than crackers, breakfast cereals, potato chips, dried fruit and bread.

Another option with Halloween candy is to allow snacking immediately after trick-or-treating, then throw out the remainder. But remember that depriving your child of Halloween treats will only make him or her want them more. Good dental health depends on more than just diet.

Snacks should not be served more than three or four times a day and should contribute to the overall nutrition and health of the child. Healthy snack choices include cheese, yogurt, vegetables, peanut butter and chocolate milk.

Most of all, practice good oral hygiene by making sure your child brushes and flosses every day, uses fluoride toothpaste and visits the dentist regularly.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

10/16/2006

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