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Halloween dental health: How to balance candy vs. cavities

Halloween dental health: How to balance candy vs. cavities

Guest post by Dr. Jonathan Hung DMD, MS a certified specialist in Pediatric Dentistry at Monarch Pediatric Dental Centre

It’s October and fall is in full swing. Yes it’s Vancouver … and that means rain. But that also means all the delicious baked autumn goodies are back in season (pumpkin spice everything, anybody?). Of course, we also have every child’s favourite candy holiday: Halloween!

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Trick-or-treat! Or just treats… really!

Halloween approaches which means figuring out costumes, getting out the spooky decorations, and of course, getting all that yummy Halloween candy. As a parent myself, I can’t help but grab a few pieces of chocolate from my daughter’s trick-or-treat haul, as we all get into the spirit a little bit. Make no bones about it,  the end of October is always a time when there’s going to be a little bit more sugar lying around at home.

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“Must be the Halloween candy…”

We hear it a lot! Especially during those check-ups in early to mid-November. It’s easy to blame Halloween for tooth decay, but the truth is, Halloween candy plays a relatively small role when it comes to keeping our children cavity free. You see, cavities are formed by acid-forming bacteria in the mouth that feast on the carbohydrates in our diet. Sugar is a part of it, yes, but things like crackers, chips, cookies and soft drinks are also very high in carbohydrates. It’s not just from sugar! It’s those other things, throughout the year, that can take a toll on the teeth.

It’s easy to blame Halloween for tooth decay, but the truth is, Halloween candy plays a relatively small role when it comes to keeping our children cavity free.

Timing is everything

Let’s take a Kit Kat bar as an example. I love Kit Kat’s; they’re my favourite chocolate bar. (Yes. I have only one.) Let’s say I eat one quickly right after lunch as a little treat. Each time we eat, carbohydrates in our food get broken down into sugar, and the bacteria create a little acid from it which damages our teeth. Yikes. Sorry if that ruined your appetite. It takes about 30 minutes for the damage from the acid to be balanced out by our own saliva. Conversely, if ate the same Kit Kat bar slowly, taking a bite every 15 minutes between breakfast and lunch, our mouth would never get that 30 minutes to re-balance. So, it’s not about how much sugar you eat, it’s about how often you consume it.

Tip for Halloween candy: give it to your children as an after meal treat, and prevent them from grazing from their stash of candy in between meals.

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Help our children clean their teeth

This seems logical; brush their teeth twice a day, and floss them too! So we talked about how all types of carbohydrates can cause cavities if consumed frequently, right? Well, chocolate and candy are particularly sticky. They’re going to cause cavities just a bit more easily because they’re sticky and hard to get off the teeth. Don’t hesitate to actively help your kids brush  – angling the toothbrush or flossing the molars might be hard without Mom or Dad. We wouldn’t let our 5-year-olds clean the baking pan by themselves after baking the brownies, right? If our fine-motor skills aren’t developed to the point where we’re printing the alphabet neatly, then we’re also missing hard to reach areas in the mouth.

This guest post is sponsored by Monarch Pediatric Dental Centre

Dr. Jonathan Hung DMD, MS is one the certified specialists in Pediatric Dentistry at Monarch Pediatric Dental Centre. He, along with many of his colleagues at the practice are board certified in Pediatric Dentistry by the Royal College of Dentists of Canada and the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. He and the practice help share weekly children’s dental tips on Instagram at @monarchdental. Come check them out in Burnaby, Port Moody, Surrey and Vancouver!

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