Now that Halloween is over, our kids have a plethora of candy of all different varieties at their fingertips. Believe it or not, some varieties of candy are better for our children’s teeth than others. Also, most of us think that moderation is the solution, but as a pediatric dentist, I beg to differ.

“Not-so-good” Treats:

Most pediatric dentists agree that gummy, chewy candies are the most damaging to our children’s teeth and existing fillings. This also goes for gummy vitamins, fruit leather, and dried fruit – even though these snacks are “healthy,” they can cause cavities as well. These foods get stuck in the grooves of the teeth, and for some reason, our kids do not notice it. Can you believe it? When we get food stuck in our teeth, it drives us CRAZY!  Our theory is that children like the “never ending savoring of the flavor,” or as we like to say “the gift that keeps on giving”…YUM!  These foods remain on the teeth for a longer period of time, thereby creating the perfect environment for the germs to flourish and cavities to form. In addition, these sticky foods can dislodge protective sealants and existing fillings.

Better Treats: 

Chocolate, cookies, cake, ice cream and several other sweet treats are better for our children’s teeth, when compared to the candies mentioned above.

Chocolate, cookies, cake and ice cream don’t take forever to chew and they do not get lodged into the grooves of the teeth. Chocolate, by itself, has even been shown to have a protective effect. This has been attributed to the presence of protective factors: calcium, phosphate, and the milk protein – casein.

There’s a protective factor in cocoa itself, which is unlikely to override the negative effect of the high sugar content of chocolate on our teeth. That is why chocolate should only be a treat.

Alternatives:

Xylitol is a great alternative to sugar, because it is sweetener derived from plants. It helps to create a more unfavorable environment for the proliferation of germs in the mouth, thereby inhibiting the formation of cavities. There are many treats available made with xylitol. With children and treats, we always hear the phrase, “anything in moderation.” Well, yes, moderation is always good, but if they do eat sweets (especially during and after Halloween), have your children eat them all at once. Avoid ‘grazing’ over extended periods. For example, have a chocolate bar in one sitting, rather than constantly dipping into a bag of sweets over a period of hours or even day.

There are many things you can do with your buckets of holiday candy.  Below is a list of ideas:

  • Trade it in for a special gift or toy your child has been wanting
  • (Have the “Halloween candy fairy” come.  She takes the candy and then leaves a gift behind while your child is sleeping.)
  • Buy it back from your kids for a reasonable price
  • Donate it to the troops
  • Donate it to local nursing homes, homeless shelters, group homes or even food banks (call first to see if they are taking Halloween candy donations)
  • Use it to make Halloween candy gingerbread houses, but GLUE it on, so your kids can’t eat it
  • Test it in a science experiment – candyexperiments.comhas some GREAT ideas!

The holidays are a fun time of year for everyone, especially children!  The idea is to keep children’s teeth healthy why allowing them to enjoy their treats. By following the tips above, holiday sweets won’t turn into an unplanned trip to the dentist in January.