Halloween doesn't have to be a horror for children's teeth

October 31, 2018, University of British Columbia
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Sweet treats are as much a part of Halloween as haunted houses, creative costumes and the Monster Mash. They're fun to collect, but having that big bag of candy around the house for weeks after Halloween can't be good for children's oral health.

We spoke with Kavita Mathu-Muju, an associate professor and pediatric dentist in UBC's faculty of dentistry, about the toll treats take on teeth, and how you can help your kids get their chompers through the season relatively unscathed.

In the grand scheme of things, how harmful is Halloween to 's teeth?

Like most things in life, the key to enjoying Halloween is moderation. So, if parents accept that their children are going to spend a week overindulging on candy, then there are a few simple things to keep in mind that can really minimize the cavity-causing potential of Halloween treats.

What are those?

Bacteria in our mouth break down the sugar in Halloween candy to produce acid. The longer the teeth are exposed to acid, the greater the chance that tooth enamel will break down, and this is what causes cavities. So there are three key things to remember:

First, the consistency. The stickier the candy, the worse it is for teeth.

Secondly, the duration of exposure to sugary candy. The longer a child holds candy or sweets in the mouth, the longer the exposure to sugar, and the worse it's going to be for the teeth. For example, think about sucking on a lollipop for half an hour. That is a really long time to expose mouth bacteria to sugar. Just compare that to eating a small bit of chocolate, which disappears down into the stomach right away.

Credit: University of British Columbia

Finally, keep in mind how frequently your child is eating candy. Eating just one lollipop is probably not going to cause any irreparable harm. But having several lollipops a day will definitely increase the likelihood of developing cavities.

From an perspective, is it better to finish off candy quickly, or try to stretch it out until Christmas?

It's definitely better to finish off the candy quickly. For example, if someone has a package of lifesavers, is it better to eat one lifesaver on the hour, every hour, until the package is finished, or is it better to eat the whole package all at once? It's actually better to finish up the whole package at once, because this minimizes the mouth bacteria's exposure to sugar.

Do you have any special oral hygiene tips to share for the season?

After Halloween night is over, leftover candy should be consumed only as a treat right after dinner, and that's because the saliva produced during a meal can help wash away that sugary residue. Plus, bedtime comes after dinner, so a child will be brushing his or her and that will help minimize the potential of developing cavities. I also recommend avoiding snacking on leftover candy during the day. Definitely don't put it in your child's lunchbox as a snack for recess.

What's it like to be a dentist treating children in the first week of November?

Actually it's fun, because children come in and they really enjoy sharing their Halloween experiences and telling us about their costumes. What we usually hear is stories about parents eating their , so I'm not always sure it's the children we should be worrying about after Halloween.

Explore further: Halloween treats can spook kids' teeth

Related Stories

Halloween treats can spook kids' teeth

October 30, 2013
(HealthDay)—Halloween can have frightful effects on children's teeth if parents aren't careful, experts warn.

Video: How much Halloween candy would kill you?

October 26, 2016
Halloween is almost here, which means costumes, scary movies and lots of candy.

Tips for a healthy, happy Halloween

October 20, 2011
Ghosts and goblins, vampires and werewolves, haunted houses and hayrides. Though Halloween is all about being scared silly, the shock from stepping on the scale after pilfering through the collected candy could turn your ...

Scary part of Halloween is sugar, calories in trick-or-treat bag

October 22, 2014
For most kids Halloween is all about the candy. It is estimated that each child's bag of goodies contains about 4,800 calories, has 3 cups of sugar and 1½ cups of fat. The real horror in the Halloween trick-or-treat bag ...

Avoid scary calorie counts this Halloween

October 14, 2012
(HealthDay)—Waiting until the last minute to buy Halloween candy is a good way to stick to a healthy diet and cut extra calories, an expert suggests, because if the candy isn't sitting around the house, you won't be tempted ...

4,800 calories: That's what is in an average trick-or-treat haul

October 25, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—For most kids Halloween is all about the candy. It is estimated that each child's bag of goodies contains about 4,800 calories and has 3 cups of sugar and 1½ cups of fat. The real horror in the Halloween ...

Recommended for you

Study shows changes in histone methylation patterns in nutritionally stunted children

November 13, 2018
An international team of researchers has found changes in histone methylation patterns in nutritionally stunted children. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their ...

Your 6-month-old isn't sleeping through the night? Relax

November 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—If your 6-month-old still wakes up at 2 a.m., a new study suggests you don't lose any additional sleep worrying about it.

New exercise guidelines: Move more, sit less, start younger

November 12, 2018
Move more, sit less and get kids active as young as age 3, say new federal guidelines that stress that any amount and any type of exercise helps health.

Some activity fine for kids recovering from concussions, docs say

November 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—Children and teens who suffer a sports-related concussion should reduce, but not eliminate, physical and mental activity in the days after their injury, an American Academy of Pediatrics report says.

Breast milk and babies' saliva shape oral microbiome

November 8, 2018
Newborn breastfed babies' saliva combines with breastmilk to release antibacterial compounds that help to shape the bacterial communities (microbiota) in babies' mouths, biomedical scientists have found.

Preschool children show awake responses to naptime nonsense words

November 7, 2018
Of all of our senses, hearing is the only one that has long been suspected as being "on" all the time—even in our sleep. Sounds that occur during the night have a way of registering in the brain. Now a group of scientists ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.