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Ask the Expert: The Trick to Treating Children’s Teeth Well During Halloween

Families can stay ahead of holiday tooth decay by establishing healthy dental habits and keep candy consumption in check with a few simple tips.



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Halloween is one of the most popular holidays on the American calendar with a majority of families in some way celebrating this staple of Fall festivities. As the leaves begin to fall and the days become shorter, pumpkin spice everything appears on store shelves and children all over the nation begin planning Halloween costumes. This kick-off to the holiday season can often signal to children (and some adults!) that sweater weather means cocoa and candy. Dr. Wilma McPherson with Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry recommends instituting good dental hygiene habits well before Halloween to help families avoid the pain of cavities once the fun is done. Good habits plus some tips for parents will make the holiday season a treat for children while keeping kids’ smiles healthy all year long.   

Starting with Halloween, many families find their schedules packed with school activities, fun outings and holiday gatherings. It’s important to establish a routine of healthy practices before the holiday season arrives so good habits stay on track. At Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry, healthy habits are our first stop. Let’s start with the obvious: Brush teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and remember to floss. Some think flossing is optional, but this is often the best way to properly clean in the tight spaces between teeth where caramel and roast beef like to linger causing bad breath and cavities.

Teach Kids the Right Way to Brush

For children who are learning to brush, supervision is key! Children under 10 need to be supervised and children under 5 need physical help to brush properly as some may not have yet developed the manual dexterity to fully clean teeth. Brush teeth for anywhere between 2 to 4 minutes. To help children get comfortable with this time, many parents will play a special song or use a bathroom clock to monitor how much time is spent in each quadrant of the mouth. Whatever method your family chooses should be consistent to help make those good dental habits last a lifetime.  

Once Halloween arrives, Dr. McPherson and the JCPD staff encourage kids to have fun, have their treats and explore other ways to make the holiday special. Children have no shortage of sources for candy at this time of year. With that in mind, parents can consider alternatives to candy such as stickers, temporary tattoos, mini coloring books, small toys like rubber dinosaurs or hand mazes. Activities or crafts like pumpkin carving and fall decorating make memories that last far longer than candy. If parents bring their children down to show off their costumes at the Historic Downtown Family Halloween Bash in Jersey City, they’ll get a fun pair of vampire teeth from our staff at the Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry booth. This candy alternative is always a big hit with our kids who know the importance of a healthy smile.

Steer Clear of Candies That Linger

Of course, candy can’t be avoided altogether. That’s not the philosophy of JCPD and we don’t think parents need to take drastic measures. Helping parents know which candies are better for teeth, however, can provide an advantage in the fight for a healthy smile. A simple rule is that the longer sugar stays in the mouth, the more damage it can do. These lingerers include clingy candy like sour worms, super sticky red fish gummies or even fruit snacks. They stick to teeth and are resistant to the natural saliva washing process. Don’t be fooled by candy covered apples or sticky popcorn balls; they have a tendency to get stuck in teeth and are hard to brush away. Chocolate is the hero of the candy aisle. This go-to candy staple washes away easily and the bonus is that it’s also delicious! All holiday festivities invite ongoing snacking but this should be avoided. Limit eating to mealtimes to minimize a constant flow of sugar and acid over teeth causing enamel to break down. Remember to drink lots of water in general but definitely after eating candy or other damaging foods.

Keep Candy an Occasional Treat

Some studies suggest kids may end up with an average of 90 pieces of candy celebrating Halloween at school, in neighborhood events and through trick-or-treating! Parents should always check candy for open or compromised pieces before letting kids dig in, and they should also make it a practice to cull the candy stash. The trick to keeping children’s teeth healthy during this season is to make sure candy remains a “treat” rather than a constant indulgence. Make a fun event in letting kids pick out their favorites to save as treats. Since items like candy should be eaten with a meal, a good idea would be to put one treat in with a child’s lunch as a sweet reminder of the fun they had trick-or-treating. It’s a good idea to pack a stick of sugar-free gum for after meal mouth cleansing, too.

Trade Some of That Candy for Cash

For the rest of the tempting treats, parents can take advantage of candy buy-back programs in their neighborhood such as the one at Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry which takes place the week after Halloween. When parents bring their children in to the JCPD offices during the first week in November, JCPD will pay $1/pound of candy up to $5. The fun treats are then sent to U.S. service personnel and first responders—along with adult dental supplies and cards or letters from our young patients. After the fun of costumes, decorating and candy, the children love the idea of helping make our service men and women smile with a sweet treat.

The friendly front office team at Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry will be happy to share information about our candy buy-back program or help you schedule an end-of-the-year appointment for the kids. Call JCPD at 201-434-3002 or visit us at JCPDentistry.com to learn more about our practice.

Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry is Where Little Smiles Come to Shine!

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