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Dentists Seasonal Concern: Halloween and Tooth Decay

January 11th, 2012

For most families, fall is an exciting time of year that involves hiking, pumpkin carving, apple picking, and, of course, Halloween. This holiday that seems to best serve kids and kids-at-heart has also received a bad reputation in the dental community. After all, a night of excessive sugar consumption spells trouble for teeth. However, this shouldn’t be a reason for parents to refuse children the opportunity to partake in the night of fun.

Why Sugar Makes Dentists Grimace Sugar, which nearly every human being comes to love at a very early age, is also consumed and preferred by many other species on earth. Some of those species are not even visible with extreme magnification. Bacteria, for instance, are sugar-lovers and feast on the good stuff, just like kids all across this country and beyond. When they find their way into children’s mouths – first feasting on those delectable sweets, they don’t like to leave. After all, the moist, warm, and food-filled area makes the perfect home for bacteria to live and multiply. The biggest problem is that some of the bacteria found in the human mouth can be very harmful. Teeth, gums, and other soft tissue can be consumed resulting in cavities, gum disease, or worse. In fact, the same bacteria that feed on sugar in the mouth can travel through the blood stream to other areas of the body and have been tied to conditions as serious as heart disease.

Reduce the Potential Risks Halloween can still be enjoyed, just as kids and adults will munch on sweets at any other time of the year. The key to surviving the holiday with oral health intact is moderation. While they can meander the streets all night long, collecting treats from all of the houses in nearby neighborhoods, and may even fill a pillowcase with sugary treats, the best thing a parent can do for a child is to limit the amount of candy consumed on the special night. It might seem a difficult task, but a simple reminder that the treats are theirs to keep and to enjoy in the days thereafter, or a distraction related to other costumed creatures can often be enough to avoid excess consumption. There are also some candies that are better to avoid than others. Taffy, caramel, and other super-sticky treats are sure to be lodged in the tiny crevices within and between teeth. While the bacteria may be pleased, an Austin dentist wouldn’t be.

In addition to limiting candy intake, it can also be very beneficial to encourage kids to bring a water bottle with them on their truck around town. Drinking a steady flow of water can wash away food debris and reduce acid lingering in the mouth. Of course, the night should be followed by a very good brushing and flossing before bed.
Sugar Free Versus the Traditional Some parents feel that they would be doing good by their kids to invest in sugar-free Halloween treats. Unfortunately, the carrot sticks and bananas that would be the better alternatives for snacks on the big night are not likely to win praise from the children and sugar-free candy isn’t always a great alternative. Many of these options make use of an ingredient called maltitol, which is a sugar alcohol and can have 75% of the blood-sugar impact. Other fake sweeteners can be bad news for diabetic children as they can actually cause low blood sugar, some can cause migraines, and others can carry heavy doses of sodium.

Austin Dental Center, PC
2304 Hancock Dr. Suite 1
Austin, TX 78756-2537
(512) 454-0414