The Great Pumpkin saves teeth on Halloween

By From page A14 | October 06, 2013

I am looking forward to our 3-year-old daughter being Minnie Mouse and 6-month-old daughter being a pumpkin on Halloween. Amid this joy of wearing costumes and trick-or-treating, one shouldn’t overlook the aftermath of sugar indulgence that can follow the sought-out accomplishment of topping off a jack-o-lantern bucket with candy during on Halloween.

Like all other parents, I made a commitment to make my kids’ life better than mine. Our elder daughter never had any sweets until recently, and she has not had any candy yet. At her past Halloweens, she liked the squishy noise of the candy plastic wraps and later the Halloween costumes more than the candy. Unfortunately, this sugar-free innocence will not last much longer. Now she knows how great sweets taste.

But I am a dentist. I studied the microbiology and the histopathology of tooth cavities, so I can’t just sit back and watch! However, after witnessing kids’ excitement as they proudly announce how many pieces of trophy candy they collected, I’ve come to realize that it’s really not fair to take kids out to trick-or-treat and then take the candy away without replacing it with some other reward.

So, there should be some rules as well as appealing ways to reduce the amount and the frequency of sugar that kids will be exposed to after this high-sugar spree.

In our house, there will be no eating of candy at night. Candy sticks to teeth in areas where brushing and flossing can’t even reach. Bacteria then consume these sugars throughout the night and produce acids that cause tooth cavities.

Candy also will linger in the mouth for a longer time because the mouth generates less saliva during sleep. Saliva is the natural defense of the mouth that prevents cavities; it washes away loose food particles, neutralizes the cavity-causing acids, and has minerals that repair teeth and antimicrobials that kill bacteria.

If you decide to give kids candy, then the best time is during the day and immediately after a regular meal as a dessert, since chewing stimulates the mouth to produce saliva. However, relying only on our body’s natural defense is not adequate. Brushing and flossing are very important, especially at these times to help loosen as much of the sticky candies as possible and clean them away.

Trading in some, most or all of the candy for something else that kids like is an option worthy of consideration. The Great Pumpkin can stop by after bedtime on Halloween to pick up the candy and leave gifts, especially for those who behave well on Halloween, saving teeth from the sugar bugs that feed on candy.

— Samer Alassaad has a private dental practice in Davis. Contact him at [email protected]

Samer Alassaad

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