We absolutely love this time of year when kids come to our office excited about Halloween or, occasionally, dressed in costume! We also enjoy talking to parents, teachers, and grandparents about their plans for the fall holiday. Sometimes parents ask us about foods that are good and bad for their kids’ teeth. Our goal is to look out for your smiles, no matter what time of year. That’s why we want to share some tips for healthy Halloween treats – and some that aren’t so healthy.
Steer Clear Of These Creepy Candies
First, the bad. And yes, there are candies that are much worse for developing smiles than others! Specifically, that includes any candy that is:
The descriptions of “chewy” and “sticky” should give away why these tricks, not treats, are bad for your teeth. All that sugar basically gets trapped in grooves of teeth and around teeth, where it sits as bacteria in the mouth feeds off of it. That process creates acid, which eats away at the protective layer over teeth, called enamel. For baby teeth and newly emerged teeth, whose enamel is weaker, this spells trouble. If your kids aren’t great at brushing their teeth, over time this sugar buildup and enamel-eroding process causes cavities. If you add acidic, sour candy to the mix, you’re immediately speeding up that process.
As for hard candy, you would be shocked at how often patients go to the dentist with broken, cracked, or chipped teeth from hard candy, like suckers and jawbreakers. Sticky candies can even cause fillings to come loose! So steer clear of these candies if at all possible. We are quick at getting patients out of pain and restoring their smiles in emergency situations, but who wants to deal with the time, pain, and money of that, especially on Halloween?
Savor These Suspicious Snacks
There are some treats that aren’t so terrible for your children’s teeth (or yours, for that matter). Your kids likely eat some of these for lunch or snacks anyway. Just be sure they drink plenty of water and keep their teeth clean. Some of these options are higher in carbs, so the debris tends to get stuck in teeth. And fruit snacks can contain acids, although they also contain other nutrients and minerals that can help outweigh that disadvantage.
So, here are a few suggestions that can be enjoyed in moderation (of course, be cautious with any nut or other allergies):
- Raisins, other dried fruits, and fruit leather
- 100% real juice boxes
- Small citrus fruits
- Raisins or nuts covered in chocolate or yogurt coating
- Milk chocolate, either solid, with nuts, or with crispy cereal
- Packs of crackers, multigrain chips, pretzels, or popcorn
- Packs of animal crackers
- Packs of PB or cheese sandwich crackers
- Trail mix
Don’t Be Terrified Of These Tasty Treats
Kids will already be overloaded with pounds of candy, so you might want to seek out healthy Halloween treats that you and the kids can feel good about. These include:
- Dark chocolate
- Sugar-free gum (look for xylitol if possible – a tooth-decay fighter)
- Kid-size apples
- Peanut butter packs
- Snack-size almonds
Thrill & Delight With These Non-Candy Alternatives
Want to skip the edibles altogether? Then shop online or head to your local dollar, discount, or party store and pick up some non-candy Halloween items. Trust us, the kids will love these little treasures and won’t miss the candy. If you can get Halloween-themed or fall-themed items, all the better! You can even take your kids along and get their input.
- Glow sticks
- Small arts and crafts, like coloring books, crayons, and stencils
- Erasers and pencils
- Temporary tattoos and stickers
- Small toys like balls and fake mustaches
- Small games
- Jewelry – and kids love any that lights up or glows in the dark!
- Molding clay or mini Play-Doh
- Lip balm
- Magic grow capsules so kids can watch mini animals grow in water!
Fend Off Those Frightening Cavities
No matter what your kids munch on this Halloween and the weeks that follow, we recommend starting to talk to them now about better choices for their teeth, and often, their bodies. That way, any limits you set or precautions you take won’t come as a shock or won’t be misunderstood when your kids start sorting their candy.
You might use a little help from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, which teaches kids about their oral health through their Mouth Monsters program. You can print off their coloring pages and hang them on the fridge or in your kids’ rooms to display their artwork while reminding them that what they eat can affect their smiles.
Here are a few tooth tips to keep in mind:
- Consider setting a limit ahead of time about eating their treats. Maybe they get one after school and one after dinner.
- Don’t keep the candy in the house after a certain period of time. Or at least ditch or donate the least healthy options.
- Check on your kids in the morning and at bedtime to be sure they’ve brushed their teeth for at least two minutes. Make sure they floss at night too.
- If your kids are “grazers” with their Halloween treats, keep the bag and have them ask for a treat.
- Encourage them to drink water after each treat. Swishing the water helps knock sugary, starchy debris off teeth and gums too.
- Have a trade-off on Halloween night – unhealthy options for the non-candy trinkets you picked up for trick-or-treaters.
You don’t have to feel guilty with these healthy Halloween treats and alternatives your kids can enjoy. And with daily oral care at home and twice-yearly visits to Rolling Ridge Dentistry, you can feel great about your kids’ oral health. Contact us online or by calling 919-646-4391 if you need to set up those visits to our Raleigh office. We look forward to seeing you and wish you a Happy Halloween!