If the aftermath of Halloween treat indulgence is on your mind this year, keep in mind that there are things you as a parent can do throughout the year to prevent tooth decay in children.
First, remember that good dental health depends on more than just diet.
When it comes to Halloween treats, "it's not necessarily the amount of sugar in the candy you put in your mouth, it's the consistency of it," said Dr. Richard Price, an American Dental Association consumer advisor.
"As soon as we take our first bite into something sugary, the bacteria in plaque begin to produce acids. While the acid is being produced, it starts to rob the tooth of minerals, and that's how decay starts," said Dr. Price.
The tooth can replace those lost minerals by soaking up phosphates and calcium from other foods and fluoride in toothpaste, but it usually takes several hours.
Dr. Price suggests allowing your children to eat sweets as dessert, after a meal, when they will cause the least amount of damage.
Make sure your children brush their teeth afterwards, too. If they can't brush, have them chew sugarless gum for a few minutes to stimulate the saliva that will help wash away the decay-causing acids from the teeth.
You can also watch how frequently your child eats foods with sugar or starch in them &— foods that are more likely to promote decay. Foods with starch include breads, crackers, pasta and snacks like pretzels and potato chips.
When checking for sugar, look beyond the sugar bowl and candy dish. A variety of foods contain one or more type of sugar, and all types of sugar can promote dental decay. Fruits, a few vegetables and most milk products have at least one type of sugar.
Many foods with sugar and starch provide nutrients your child needs&—you simply need to select and serve them wisely. A food with sugar or starch is safer for teeth if it's eaten with a meal, not as a snack.
In addition to healthy eating habits, regular dental visits, fluoride use and visiting the dentist by age 1 are a few other ways to ensure your child maintains good dental health.© American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.