From trick-or-treating and school parties to harvest festivals and gifts from relatives, Halloween activities revolve around the candy. During this holiday season, it might feel impossible to keep your kids away from the sweets. Use these tips to limit candy consumption, help prevent tooth decay, and keep your kid's teeth healthy and happy.
Oral Care Tips for Halloween Candy and Healthy Teeth
Any candy that contains sugar will feed the plaque development that leads to tooth decay. A better question to ask would be: What Halloween candy is the worst for teeth?
- Hard candy. You might think sticky candy would harm teeth most, but actually, hard candy like lollipops and peppermints cause the most dental damage. These harder treats linger in your mouth longer, putting your teeth at risk for prolonged acid attacks, which lead to tooth decay. Plus, they can also trigger a dental emergency such as a broken or chipped tooth.
- Sticky treats. From gummy worms to caramels, sticky candy is plentiful during Halloween. These softer treats tend to remain on teeth and "stick around" long after the candy has been enjoyed. You can help reduce dental damage by enjoying one piece at a time and chewing thoroughly.
- Chewing gum. Surprisingly, one of the safest Halloween treats to enjoy is gum. Gum stimulates extra saliva production, which naturally rinses the mouth and keeps plaque-causing bacteria at bay. Choose sugar-free, all-natural gum that's sweetened with fruit juices.
Though candy is plentiful, you don't have to let the threat of tummy aches and cavities ruin Halloween. With some extra diligence and a few ground rules, you can make the holiday fun and healthy for the whole family.
- Inspect the loot. When your child returns from trick-or-treating or a Halloween party, make sure you get a first look at the haul. Give them a piece or two to enjoy while you check their bag for tampered wrappers, potential allergens, or choking hazards.
- Limit candy consumption. Ask your child to help you sort the sweets into piles based on type: chocolate, gummies, and hard candy. Then use small baggies to create candy rations, including one piece from each pile. You can make a rule about how often your child enjoys a treat — like once or twice a week. Make sure to store the candy out of sight.
- Make snacking healthier. When it's time to indulge, permit candy consumption only at mealtime when extra saliva production helps to rinse food particles from teeth. Hard fruits and vegetables can also help dislodge any sticky treats from crevices in the teeth. When eating hard candies, have your child drink a bottle of water to help periodically rinse the sugar from their teeth.
- Propose a trade. If your child collected more candy than they'll ever be able to eat, offer to make a few trades. Let the child use the candy to "buy" other items, such as movie tickets or a new toy. You might even have some smaller items available on Halloween night to help take the attention off the giant bag of candy.
- Prioritize oral health. Be extra diligent about oral care during the Halloween season. Help your child correctly brush their teeth at the end of each day to remove sugary build-up. Also, floss their teeth once a day to remove any candy debris that might be stuck between teeth.
Whether you're stocking up for trick-or-treaters or looking for healthier ideas for your child's Halloween party, check out these candy alternatives for this favorite fall holiday.
What to Hand Out Instead of Halloween Candy
- Fruits and veggies. Many grocery stores sell fruit and vegetables in individually-wrapped snack packs. Check your produce aisle for treat-sized bags of baby carrots and apple slices to encourage dental health and provide a break from a bag of syrupy sweet candy.
- Dairy products. The dairy aisle holds more pre-packaged treats that go easy on the teeth. Individual yogurt tubes come in a variety of flavors and provide essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. You can also try cheese sticks, which are sure to be a favorite for hungry ghosts and goblins. Or quench a young vampire's thirst with drink boxes of organic chocolate milk.
- Chewing gum. As previously mentioned, sugar-free gum makes a great alternative to traditional Halloween candy. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals helps reduce tooth decay. The increased saliva helps wash out food debris and neutralize any acid produced by bacteria.
What to Serve at a Party Instead of Halloween Treats
- Monster mouths. Skip the wax lips in favor of healthy — and arguably better-tasting — monster mouths made from apples. Slice an unpeeled apple into large wedges, then cut a groove into the center of the wedge's peel-side to create an opening for the mouth. Stuff the groove with peanut or almond butter and top with chopped peanuts or almond slivers to look like crooked teeth poking out.
- Vegetable skeleton. Make a boring veggie platter spooktacular by arranging the vegetables in the shape of a skeleton. Use celery stalks and carrot sticks for the legs and arms, cucumber slices for the spine, and bell pepper slices for the rib cage. Cauliflower florets create a skull on top with broccoli for eye sockets and bell pepper strips for the mouth. For the finishing touch, add a carved out pumpkin on the side filled with a healthy dip.
- Orange pumpkins and banana ghosts. Quickly turn your favorite fruits into festive snacks. Simply peel oranges or clementines and add a small slice of celery on top for the pumpkin stalk. Then, peel and slice bananas in half and use three chocolate chips to create two eyes and a mouth for a spooky ghost.
Halloween is a great time to promote oral health in your family and throughout the community. Whether you are limiting candy consumption in your own home or sharing nutritious, teeth-healthy snacks with friends and neighbors, you can help develop healthy habits while still enjoying the spirit of the holiday.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.