Participating in Halloween and “Trick or Treating” has become a part of the norm for most children now and it seems that the supermarkets are full of special packs of sweeties exactly for you to use when they come a calling! But how can you keep your kids safe from too many sweets and the problems that all that sugar consumption can produce?
As dentists you may think we don’t want your kids to participate and that we don’t let our own children have any sweets but that isn’t the case, we do have to be practical. We all want to have fun and participating in “Trick or Treating” is definitely fun with the rewards very tasty for the average child.
So what can you do to minimise the problems.
- Firstly, enjoy the evening and don’t worry too much
- Often if they eat too many sweets all at once they will soon tire of them
- It is much better to eat a lot of sweets all at once rather than spread them out over a long period so try and get the Halloween stash eaten or shared out so that is doesn’t last for days or even weeks
- Avoid chewy sweets that last a long time in the mouth and that are sticky – they will cause the most harm to your teeth
- Often chocolate is better as it melts away very quickly and tends not to stick in teeth
- Try some alternative fruit treats, this is a great idea made with bananas and satsumas
Most children love sweets but do remember that all that sugar can cause long lasting medical problems that we don’t want to encourage so trying to encourage different treats instead of sweets is a great idea.
Is it a good idea to brush teeth straight away to reduce the problem?
Many people do think that it doesn’t matter how many sweets you eat as long as teeth are brushed afterwards but this simply is not the case.
When sugary substances are consumed the bacteria within your mouth will use the sugar to produce a sticky film – plaque – and will then start to produce acids that will produce tooth decay. The whole environment in the mouth is changed to one where the teeth are vulnerable to decay and indeed will start to demineralise. That is, the minerals start to come out of the tooth and hence soften the tooth. If brushing happens immediately then this softer part can be brushed away producing erosion. You won’t be able to see it but over time you will and so it is for this reason that we don’t recommend brushing your teeth immediately after a sugary snack or drink. You need to give the mouth time to neutralise the acidity and this will allow the minerals to return to the tooth and harden the structure before tooth brushing.
So what can be done to help settle the acidity in the mouth after all the sugar?
Well even just a drink of plain water can help but activating the natural defence mechanism of the body – your own saliva – can help. This is why chewing sugar free gum is a good idea after eating sweets as this will stimulate saliva production that is naturally alkali and will help neutralise the acids. Cheese is also a good neutraliser and many favour finishing a meal with cheese for this very reason.
Our message this Halloween
- Go out and have fun
- Try and keep treats low sugar or sugar free
- Better to eat all the sweets at once rather than spread out over time
- Don’t brush teeth straight away, wait for a while after
- Rinsing with water
- Chewing sugar free gum
- Or perhaps finish with a small piece of cheese.
And when bedtime comes brush teeth as normal with a small headed toothbrush with a fluoride toothpaste.