Halloween is just a few weeks away, meaning you might be trying to find ideas for Halloween treats. The holiday has become synonymous with toothaches and cavities due to the amount of sugar being handed out. Tooth decay has even been considered the most common yet preventable childhood chronic disease.
We understand that kids love sugar and look forward to all the free Halloween candy. Even though we love dentistry, the staff here at Stroud have sweet tooths as well! We just want to make sure that kids can enjoy Halloween without the pain of cavities later on. If you’re hoping to reduce the amount of future dental dilemmas, there are plenty of alternative treats available.
Tooth-Friendly Alternatives For Halloween Treats
Sugar-free gum is a great treat to give out to trick-or-treaters. Gum has been shown to promote the flow of saliva within the mouth, which provides a variety of benefits. Bacteria in the mouth can begin to break sugar down before it reaches your stomach. This bacteria turns the sugar into acids that are directly responsible for bad breath and tooth decay. This increased flow carries sugars away from your teeth, keeping them safe and healthy.
Increased salivary flow can even strengthen teeth. Saliva contains vitamins and minerals like calcium that promote strong enamel and healthy gums. Studies have even lead dentists to promote the chewing of sugar-free gum after meals as a way to reduce cavities. Many sugar-free gum brands have even earned the American Dental Association Seal of Approval.
An ingredient to look for in sugar-free gum is xylitol, an alternative to the sweetener sorbitol. Both are ingredients that sweeten sugar-free gum, but have been shown to act in slightly different ways. While sorbitol is better than sugar, it is still easily absorbed and digested by bacteria in the mouth. This bacteria, known as cariogenic bacteria, is the source of bad breath and tooth decay. Studies suspect that sorbitol can promote the growth of this bacteria by acting as an energy source.
Xylitol, while similar to sorbitol, is believed to be nearly impossible for cariogenic bacteria to digest. With time, this bacteria begins to die out due to starvation. Studies believe that this creates healthier bacteria in the mouth, leading to better overall oral health.
Gummy / Hard Candy vs. Chocolate
Sticky or hard candy is one of the worst types of candy you can give out. The key in finding tooth-friendly sweets is to minimize the time the treat sits in the mouth. Sticky candies get stuck between teeth and along gum lines, prolonging the exposure of sugar. This includes almost every variety of gummy candies available. Hard candies work in a similar fashion as they slowly release their sugars over a long period of time. Treats like jaw-breakers expose teeth to a consistent flow of sugar that could last for hours. The number one rule with sweets is that frequency and duration are worse than amount (at least for your teeth).
Surprisingly, this means that chocolate is one of the best options for Halloween treats. Chocolate is consumed relatively quickly and melts with the warmth of the mouth. Studies have also shown that chocolate washes off teeth more quickly than other types of candy. You may also consider giving out dark chocolate, which is known to have various health benefits. Dark chocolate has a lower sugar content than it’s milk and white counterparts. Some studies have even argued that dark chocolate is actually beneficial for oral health when consumed in limited quantities.
Chips / Crackers / Pretzels
A popular alternative to sweet, sugary treats are small bags of chips or crackers. While these options have less refined sugar, the higher amount of carbohydrates can be detrimental to teeth. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugars during digestion. Just like refined sugar, these natural sugars can be turned into acids by the bacteria while in your mouth.
Snacks high in starch, like chips, are known to remain in your mouth longer than other foods. This is true even when compared to sticky candies like jelly beans. Sugary candies tend to melt and get washed away more quickly than carb-rich snacks. If any carb-rich foods linger in your teeth, though, your saliva can begin this digestion process early. This leads to weakened enamel, tooth decay, and bad breath.
Non-Edible Halloween Treats
Depending on how many trick-or-treaters you expect every year, toothbrushes are a great alternative to sweets. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three to four months to prevent bacterial build up. With time, bristles can also begin to fray and become less effective at cleaning teeth. With the cold weather arriving, it is also important to replace a toothbrush after being sick. Toothbrushes hold on to the cold and flu virus after you recover, putting you at risk of getting sick again.
Another candy-free option is to hand out things like toys or stickers. Toys like bouncy balls or vampire teeth can be cheap and fun alternatives to giving out sweets of any kind. Studies show that children are just as likely to choose toys as they are candy when given a choice. Glow sticks can entertain trick-or-treaters while increasing visibility in the dark when going from house to house.
Put your mind at ease!
Halloween doesn’t have to be synonymous with toothaches and cavities. If you’re looking to hand out tooth-friendly treats, there are plenty of options available. The best way to prevent cavities, though, is to floss and brush daily and rinse after eating candy. You should also visit your dentist twice a year to ensure your daily routine is doing its job. The holiday season is filled with treats and sugary drinks that can cause tooth decay or gum disease.
If you’re worried about Halloween candy causing you cavities, contact us today to book an appointment. Our team of dental hygienists would be happy to make sure your teeth are nice and clean. Dr. Kafka and Dr. Peleg can remove any cavities you may already have before they become a bigger issue. We offer direct billing for our patients so you can let insurance deal with any paperwork and payments. If you would like more information, contact us as 705-436-6527, or email us at [email protected]. Keep up to date with us on our social media to find out how you can win a brand new Sonicare Electric Toothbrush or a $99 Whitening Treatment!