Meems Monday with Dental Experts Balancing Halloween Fun for Kids and Oral Care
Halloween is a time of enchantment for kids, but for parents, it brings a set of concerns. How much candy is too much? How much should I steal and eat myself (obviously saving them from too much sugar)? Are their teeth going to fall out? Many parents find themselves grappling with the challenge of maintaining their children's dental health while allowing them to enjoy the magic of the season. The conundrum of candy selection, the importance of dental care, and the dilemma of striking a balance between sweet indulgence are some of the concerns that parents navigate during this season. I thought, what better time to turn to the professionals than the day before Halloween! Read on to learn how to strike a delicate balance between enjoying sweets and maintaining your children’s dental health!
Dr. Katie Geft, a mother of three and a Family Cosmetic dentist with a decade of experience in New York, chose this family profession to make a positive impact on people's lives by enhancing their overall health and well-being. We spoke about Dr. Geft's approach to Halloween candy with her own children, and she shared, “Before Halloween, discuss with your children the rules and limits regarding their Halloween candy. Let your children know how much candy they are allowed to have each day. Before trick or treating, make sure your children eat a large healthy meal! This will limit the sweets they will consume that evening. Once they get home, make sure you are helping your little ones brush and floss their teeth and use a fluoridated mouth rinse! You can also discuss the possibility of donating some of the excess candy to a local charity or shelter, or consider saving it for a special treat on occasion.”
Okay, but does sugar really hurt our teeth? Dr. Geft explained “when children eat sugar and don't clean their teeth and mouths afterward, bacteria feed off the sugar that remains stuck to the teeth. This process results in acid and plaque building up, which eventually starts eating away at the tooth's protective outer layer known as the enamel.”
We had Dental Hygienist of 17 years, an educator for dental professionals, and a mom of boys, An Chih Do, RDH, weigh-in and she added “we want our mouth at a neutral PH because bacteria can thrive in an acidic environment. If you are going to have candy, I recommend you have it with a meal or in one setting. This way it limits the exposure.”
My concerns are validated, but how can we make dental care more enjoyable for kids? As a mom Dr. Geft understands this challenge and has these steps “1. Choose a kid-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste! Let your child select their own with their favorite color or character. Similarly, choose a toothpaste with a flavor they like, such as fruit or bubblegum. 2. Create a routine - make it part of the morning and bedtime routine so your child knows what to expect. 3. Set a timer - Use a timer or an app with a fun timer to make toothbrushing a game. Encourage your child to brush for the recommended two minutes by making it a race against the clock. 4. Play a favorite song that lasts for about two minutes to make brushing entertaining.”
Should I put emphasis on brushing around the holidays, especially during times like Halloween? An Chih Do says “treat it like it is any other day, even on Halloween, make sure they are brushing their teeth twice a day. Kids follow by example, if a parent can make brushing their teeth a positive experience, then their children will respond in a similar way”.
I can easily add a few extra treats to delight our little trick-or-treaters, but I'm genuinely curious about the expert-approved candy choices. Moreover, when it comes to parents sneaking into their kids' Halloween loot, which candies are better options for the little ones and which are best enjoyed by us, all in the noble pursuit of safeguarding those precious baby teeth? Dr. Geft recommends “look for lollipops that are sugar-free or sweetened with xylitol. These can satisfy a sweet tooth without promoting tooth decay. A great example is Zolli Pops. Also, think about handing out dark chocolate as opposed to sticky candies. Dark chocolate contains less sugar than milk chocolate and dissolves much more quickly from the teeth than sticky candies do. This is important since the longer food particles remain in the mouth, the greater the opportunity for bacteria to produce acids and damage tooth enamel, causing cavities.”
An Chih Do recommended her favorite books to help kids become more comfortable with dental care as a positive daily routine. It can also help with making dental visits less intimidating. Smile Por Vida : A Spanglish Children's Dental Book, it is a not-for-profit book and any proceeds are donated to buying more books to donate to schools and different programs to benefit kids. It is a great book for desensitizing kids to tools used to clean our teeth. Also, her husband illustrated the book! Another favorite is Daniel Goes to the Dentist (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood) where they introduce the dentist and oral hygiene in a fun positive way. You can also watch the show with your kids. A popular choice is Where the Sugar Bugs Live, which is written to give your child a visual of what happens when we don’t care for our teeth. Also, worth the read, The Smile Series: If The Dentist Were An Animal. You can get more tips from An Chih Do on instagram @thepediatricrdh where she always responds to DMs!
With Halloween kicking off the holidays, these are great tips to remember as we head into a season filled with dinners, desserts, and sweet gifts over the next several months. Dr. Geft added “after the holiday season, children tend to consume more sugary treats and may not be as vigilant with their oral hygiene routines. Scheduling an appointment in the new year allows us to assess the impact of holiday indulgences on their oral health.” You can follow Dr. Geft @danoffdental or come visit her family dental practice, Danoff Dental, located in Little Neck, NY! I for one will be making dental appointments for our children in January, what better way to ring in the new year!
Christine Russell Janis writes about life as a mom of four children, living in Paris, and travel on her life & style website ashadeofrose.com. You can also follow on social media @a.shade.of.rose.in.paris.