Halloween is fast approaching and that means time for trick-or-treating and lots of candy. But that yummy candy can bring about all kinds of problems for our teeth – everything from tooth decay to  eroding enamel.

This is indeed the holiday that makes dentists, like me, cringe because of all the sugar, high acidity levels and gooey-ness found in most candy.  But like most things, moderation and making smart choices is the difference between a good time and tooth decay.  When you do it right, Halloween can still be lots of fun without causing all kinds of dental problems.

Here are some tips for Brave Parents:

  • Avoid sticky or chewy treats: Tootsie Rolls, laughy taffy, gummy worms and caramel-filled candies are treats no parent should give out and that no child should eat even in small quantities on Halloween or anytime of the year. They become easily lodged in the groves on the biting surfaces of teeth and are hard to remove which leads to tooth decay.
  • Avoid sour candy: Here’s a wakeup call: Some candies’ pH levels are close to those of a car’s battery. The acidity in one piece of sour candy is enough to potentially start the tooth erosion process. Add that touch of sourness to a hard or chewy candy that can get stuck in the grooves in your teeth, and before you know it tooth enamel starts to disappear. 
  • Find alternatives to candy: Halloween can still be plenty of fun without the dangers of tooth decay. Instead of candy, consider giving out something non-edible such as pens, pencils or other school supplies.  Or maybe a bottle of bubbles, bottle of water, a toothbrush, floss aids, coloring books, rubber balls or other small inexpensive toys.
  • Two best candies: If you must handout candy, the first best option is sugar-free gum that is naturally sweetened with xylitol that won’t attract bacteria and plaque in the mouth and may actually help prevent cavities.  The next best choice is a non-sugary treat such as peanuts or popcorn. 
  • Eat Halloween treats only after a meal and in small quantities: Many kids fill up on the overwhelming quantity of candy, leaving their bodies to run on sugar and empty calories. A burst of artificial energy is followed by fatigue and sluggishness. Always eat a balanced meal before indulging in candy.  Remember: only small quantities of candy at a time because a little piece of candy packs a lot more sugar than you realize. And when you eat it frequently it really boosts your cavity proneness.
  • Drink more water: If you do consumer a lot of candy on Halloween, drink water with fluoride to help prevent cavities from forming. The additional water swishing through your mouth might help remove some sticky substances that stick to your teeth.
  • Use this time to teach healthy dental habits: Halloween is the best time to teach your kids healthy oral homecare habits. After they’ve eaten some candy, show them the right way to brush their teeth and floss. Let them know that good oral care is something that must be maintained on Halloween and all year long.