Dr. Edwards' Blog
Tricks For Dealing with Halloween Treats
A child’s Halloween dream -- to get lots of candy -- can be their parents’ nightmare. But pediatric dental experts say Halloween can be a time to teach your children good oral health habits for life, without depriving them of Halloween treats. The key is moderation. Here are some of their best tips:
Don't deny your children the Halloween experience. That can send the entirely wrong message -- deprivation -- and make candy seem even more irresistible, leading to other problems. After your children get back from a party or trick-or-treating, go through their bags of Halloween candy together. Let them pick 10 or so (whatever number you choose) treats they want the most. Get the unpicked treats out of sight. Donate them to a food bank or to agencies that will send them to troops overseas.
This can also be a good time to teach (or remind) children that it isn't just excess sugar that can lead to cavities. Snacks such as pretzels, with starches that stay in the mouth longer, can also lead to cavities, and so can fruit snacks. The message isn't "candy is bad," but that candy and other sweets, in excess, can lead to cavities.
With your child, set a time of day to eat Halloween candy. This ritual “treat time” may last long after Halloween and help promote healthy thinking about treats. In doing this, children learn moderation -- that eating sweets shouldn't be an all-day feast, and knowing they have a specific "treat time" can make children less inclined to think about eating sweets at other times of the day.
No matter when treat time is, it's crucial to brush soon after. If it is nighttime, for example, brushing and flossing teeth before bed will help sweep away the recent sweets. The American Dental Association also recommends fluoride mouth rinses for kids also help prevent tooth decay.
Until a child is 7 or 8 years old, a parent should help with teeth brushing, not simply supervise. Even after age 8, parents should supervise brushing. That includes friendly reminders to older children to brush and floss until they get to high school, when it should be a habit.
You should replace toothbrushes every three or four months anyway, so make Halloween an occasion for getting your child a new brush. Dentists say that when children like the toothbrushes, they are more apt to enjoy brushing. Children can choose from a variety of kid-sized brushes that feature cartoon characters and colorful designs. Young children typically can't wait to use a new toothbrush. Let them choose their toothpaste too, but check the label to make sure it has fluoride.
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