Fall is in full swing and carved pumpkins, costumes and spooky decorations are front-and-center. But with October 31 around the corner, we know there’s one key tradition on kids’ minds: Halloween candy.
With COVID-19 cases currently on the decline, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently gave the green-light for children and their parents to trick-or-treat this year – encouraging the use of masks and advising against indoor gatherings.
Given the higher-than-usual candy consumption, Halloween is the perfect time to brush up on oral hygiene with your kids to help prevent cavities. Untreated cavities in children are one of the most common chronic childhood diseases in the U.S. When left untreated, cavities can lead to serious health issues, including pain and infections that affect eating, speaking and learning.
Throughout the pandemic, surveys found more than half of Americans put off dental visits due to COVID-19, and a third of parents said COVID-19 has made it difficult to get dental care for their children. Many adults developed harmful habits — 31% said they were snacking more on sweets, 21% admitted to not brushing their teeth in the morning and 23% said they aren’t flossing. Bad habits can take root and develop in children at an early age, making it all the more vital for parents to set an example with a healthy routine.
The good news is that there simple steps we can take to prevent childhood cavities this Halloween. Take a moment to learn these five simple tips and habits to incorporate into your child’s routine.
Choose Halloween Candy Wisely
Not all sweets are created equal. Some Halloween candies can do more damage than others. Watch out and try to limit sticky and gummy candy, which is difficult to remove while brushing. Hard candies can also be more harmful as sugar remains in the mouth longer, as well as sour candies which often are more acidic and can weaken teeth. Chocolate is the safest bet, as it is easiest to wash away off of teeth.
Make Sure Your Child is Brushing Their Teeth Twice a Day For at Least Two Minutes – Especially Right After Having a Sugary Treat
There are fun mobile apps and battery toothbrushes with characters to make brushing more exciting. Until your child is old enough to tie their shoes by themselves, help your child brush to make sure they are doing a good job. Be sure they brush immediately after eating their Halloween candy.
Use a Toothpaste That Contains Fluoride
Your dentist can help you choose the right one and tell you how much to use depending on your child’s age.
When Your Kids Do Have Sweet Treats, Reduce Sugars in Other Places
Eating or drinking sugary food creates acid that can lead to tooth decay. If your child does have something sugary, have them drink water afterwards. And, using a straw for sugary drinks is also helpful. It’s best to give them water to drink, especially between meals.
Here are some more tips for a healthy smile from Dr. Deborah Fuller, national dental director at Cigna.
“Small changes will have a huge overall impact and are good habits for children to learn and practice, earlier rather than later,” said Dr. Fuller. “These habits go beyond just oral health. Kids who get dental checkups have increased self-confidence, fewer missed schools day, fewer ER and hospital visits, and lower dental costs. A healthy mouth helps children thrive.”
Cigna Resources: Dental Health
When you care for your teeth, your whole body benefits. Learn about children’s dental care, senior dental care, and other oral health topics.