Q: I am a mother with two girls, aged four and six. They are looking forward to the annual Halloween event. I am apprehensive as my elder daughter got a tooth filling recently despite all my efforts with looking after their teeth. I do not want to be a party pooper, so how do I ensure my children still have a great time while minimizing the damage done to their teeth?
A: I would like to applaud your efforts in taking care of your children’s dental health and well being. As parents, we play an important role in helping our children develop good oral habits so that they can have strong and healthy teeth. Here are some tips to keep your children cavity-free during Halloween (and all year round).teeh
Choose dark chocolate and powdery candies
Hard candies such as lollipops are sucked on for a long time before dissolving completely. This prolonged exposure of teeth to sugar increases the risk of tooth decay.
Candies that are sticky and gooey, such as caramel and gummy bears, cling to the teeth. More time is required for it to be washed away by one’s saliva.
Powdery candies or chocolates (without fillings such as nuts or raisins) are better choices as they dissolve quickly and do not stick to the teeth. Where possible, opt for dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has lower sugar content and is high in anti-oxidants. High amount of anti-oxidants in saliva have been shown to fight gum disease.
Consume candies during or shortly after meals
Saliva, the major caries preventive agent, is produced when one chews food. Therefore, the best timing for your child to enjoy treats would be during or shortly after meals. This is when there is a large amount of saliva that neutralises the acidity level of the mouth and slows down mineral loss from the teeth.
Drink water instead of soft/sweet drinks
Tooth decay is caused by acid-producing bacteria in one’s mouth that feast on carbohydrates (sugar and starch). Therefore, instead of consuming soft/sweet drinks, it would be the best to stay hydrated with plain water.
Apart from limiting the intake of candies, you can provide healthy snacks as an alternative, such as cheese, vegetables and fruits. If the child still needs a sweet fix, give sugar-free candies. Creative alternatives to food include Halloween-themed toys, stationary, stickers and little books.
Visit a dentist/Paedodontist regularly
One of the ways to prevent or minimise cavities is to ensure that your children see the dentist/Paedodontist regularly for dental check-ups. Besides a good professional cleaning to remove any plaque build-up, this will ensure that potential dental issues can be identified and treated ahead of time.
Have fun Trick-or-Treating with your spectacular (not “spooktacular”) smiles!
Dr Steven Soo is a Dental Specialist in Prosthodontics with Specialist Dental Group®. He was formerly a Clinical Lecturer at the Eastman Dental Institute and Clinical Teacher at the GKT Dental Institute, both of which are affiliated with the University of London. Dr Soo has a special interest in prosthetic and implant restorative dentistry.