Tricks to keep treats from hurting kids’ teeth

Dr. Jennifer Jablow

Halloween: It’s the spookiest time of the year. But what’s really scary is the damage that those mini candy bars can do to your little monster’s teeth. Dr. Jennifer Jablow, dubbed “The Smilemaker” by Men’s Health magazine, tells Metro that Halloween is a time for parents to be on high alert, both managing kids’ candy intake and making sure that they brush regularly. Large amounts of sugar, she says, “can be detrimental to any oral health, especially for children who are still at that developmental stage when their teeth are more vulnerable.” Below are her tips for handling the Halloween haul.

How should parents manage the Halloween candy that their children bring home?

The best approach is really for kids to understand that moderation is the key. Parents can separate the candy into little bags, put it away and rotate it. The best thing is to alternate it with natural sweets, such as apples, which have a natural scrubbing action to the teeth. Apples have what’s called malic acid, which has actually been shown to dissolve buildup on the teeth.

And what about older kids and teens, whose candy consumption we can’t really control?

As much as you can, keep on top of them about brushing and rinsing. I would recommend that parents get them a sonic toothbrush, because that absolutely, hands down, removes plaque and tartar so much better than a manual brush does. Teenagers tend to be lazy when it comes to oral health, and they really could just hold it there and the toothbrush will do the work for itself.

What do you hand out on Halloween?

I actually don’t get any trick-or-treaters at my house, so I don’t hand anything out on Halloween. Okay, let’s say hypothetically, what would I hand out? Probably sugar-free gum, because it stimulates the saliva and it doesn’t cause any cavities.

Do you have a weakness for a particular Halloween candy?

I eat a little bit of dark chocolate every day, so no. Even caramel apples give me the willies — just the thought of breaking into the caramel and it sticking to your teeth — I guess as a dentist you think about that stuff. [Laughs] As long as you brush your teeth and you take care of your hygiene, it’s okay to have everything a little bit in moderation.

How can poor oral health   affect children’s daily lives?
   
Kids’ teeth are still developing, and early-onset cavities really can set them up for a lifetime of dental problems. Improper hygiene, such as not brushing the teeth, can lead to not only cavities, but also to gum tissue problems: bleeding gums, plaque buildup, bacteria, discomfort, even bad breath — we might not think about that as a problem, but children are social animals and no one wants to be around someone who’s smelly. Especially in the age of bullying.



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