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News > Commentary - This year, protect your kids’ teeth on Halloween
This year, protect your kids’ teeth on Halloween

Posted 10/27/2011   Updated 10/27/2011 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Tech. Sgt. Vivian Garcia
673d Medical Group

10/27/2011 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --  Trick-or-treating has become the main Halloween tradition in which children dress in costumes and go from house to house asking for treats.

Parents often wonder what to do with all the candy their children collect without contributing to tooth decay.

Some dentists offer candy "buy-back" programs, and offer children money, new toothbrushes and floss, and other items in exchange for their candy. There are also programs to send the candy to deployed service members.

But children can enjoy candy within reason, as long as the sugar is not left on their teeth.
Regardless of the type of sugar - fructose from bananas, maltose from milk or sucrose from candy - tooth decay can occur if it is allowed to remain on your child's teeth.
Be particularly careful of hard candies, like jawbreakers or suckers because they stay in one's mouth for longer periods of time.

The biggest thing to remember is tooth decay is caused by all foods that contain sugar or starches, because these enhance the growth of bacteria in dental plaque, which produces acids.

The attack by bacterial acid, lasting 20 minutes or more, can lead to cavities. ere are some tips to help ease those Halloween "sugar bug" woes:

1. Inspect and sort your child's treats. Discard hard candies since these can damage teeth and cause young children to choke.

2. Encourage your children to choose sugar-free brand candies. Dark chocolates and sugarless gums are preferred.

3. Limit snacks. Do not include candy in school lunches or allow your children to eat candy continuously throughout the day.

4. Choose the right kind of snacks - preferably not candy. Some tooth-friendly foods like cheeses (mozzarella, jack and cheddar) and yogurt increase salivary flow, which acts as a buffer to neutralize the acids that attack teeth.

Additionally, the calcium in dairy products strengthens teeth.

5. Practice good oral hygiene. Have your children brush their teeth two to three times each day for at least two minutes, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste...and don't forget to floss.

Flossing is just as important for children as it is for adults.

Remember, it is best to brush immediately after a meal, to remove the sugar, starches, bacteria and acid that builds up on teeth before it starts causing problems.

6. Visit your dentist regularly for optimal oral health care.

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