How to Protect Your Kids From Cavities This Halloween

October 31 when our little monsters dress up for Halloween to go out and do some trick or treating! What is your child going to be for Halloween this year? Do they have a scary costume or a bright, clever costume? Do they only go to places that they know, or are they allowed to go down a street without adult supervision? How much candy do they get to eat on Halloween and the days to follow? This is a critical question for parents as Halloween is the season that brings a lot of children to the dentist.

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Children tend to overindulge in eating candy on Halloween until the candy is either taken away or they have to go to bed. It is paramount to monitor the amount of candy your child is taking in for a few reasons such as the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cavities. Cavities are a dreaded word to hear after Halloween has passed for many parents alike. Your kids depend on you, their parent, for many things. One of them includes protecting your children from getting cavities from too much candy this Halloween.

It’s Halloween season, and that means candy. Learn how the sugar in candy affects your kids’ teeth and be informed of the problems it can lead to down the road.

Trick-or-treat, smell my feet, give me something sugar-free to eat?

As kids start getting their Halloween costumes ready and prepare to hit the neighborhoods for trick-or-treating, you may be wondering how all that candy will affect your kids’ teeth.

When I was a kid, my parents would try to dissuade me from eating too much candy by telling me it would put holes in my teeth. As it turns out, their scare tactic was based in truth.

What Causes Cavities

When a kid eats a piece of sugary candy, bacteria begin to feed on the sugar. This, in turn, causes them to multiply more and more rapidly. These bacteria combine to form what is known as plaque, and they use sugar as a form of energy with which to reproduce.

A byproduct of this sugar-consuming process is the production of acids. Acids in the plaque stick to the surface of the tooth and attack the tooth’s enamel.

Enamel is the hard, shiny outer coating of the tooth. It is made of minerals, and protects the teeth by making them hard. Unfortunately, enamel is vulnerable to acid. Normally, acids are washed away by saliva, or are removed in the process of brushing your teeth and flossing. However, if allowed to build up, the acids in plaque that is not removed will continue to attack and dissolve the tooth’s enamel. When the enamel has dissolved to the point where there is a hole in it, that is called a cavity.

A cavity can continue to become larger as the enamel continues to dissolve. Children can have very tiny pits, or they can get very wide deep cavities that need to be filled immediately. If they do not have a cavity filled right away, it can continue to dissolve and start causing the patient not only pain, but it will cause issues with drinking and eating as well. No one wants their child to suffer, and the pain posed by a cavity can get terrible to the point the child is always complaining of a toothache, has trouble eating and drinking, and are distracted from the throbbing and pain they are experiencing.

Root Canal

If not filled, a cavity can lead to serious tooth problems and considerable pain. Eventually the cavity will eat through the enamel and reach what is known as the tooth’s dentin, which actually contains nerve endings.

Further progression can lead to actual infection of the tooth itself, which in turn causes swelling and pain in the jaw and the tooth. The treatment for an infected tooth is the infamous “root canal,” more formally know as an endodontic treatment.

In an endodontic treatment, the infected tooth is opened up and cleaned out. The damaged pulp is removed, and the inside is reshaped, filled and sealed.

Prevention

What can a parent do when their child has brought home the mother load of all candy hauls? Of course, the kids are going to want to eat the candy, that is the whole point of trick or treating, right? Two concepts are the key to oral health this Halloween. Moderation and prevention! Both are vital when it comes to the candy-filled Halloween season. First of all, candy should be eaten sparingly. There is no reason to overindulge on fun size candy bars to the point the child gets a tummy ache or cavities in his or her teeth. Candy is pure sugar and bacteria loves to feed on sugar. If a child eats a piece of candy, and this is where the prevention of cavities comes in, they should immediately brush their teeth to remove the leftover candy particles that have become stuck to their teeth and in between their teeth. By brushing, you are removing those particles that can eventually turn into plaque and rot the enamel from the child’s tooth.

The fact is that there is a lot of sugar in candy. That is why it is so important for your kids to brush their teeth, floss, and visit the dentist regularly. This is to ensure that the dentist will clean your kids’ teeth in the places they can’t easily reach on their own, or if they aren’t flossing perfectly. Additionally, if there is a cavity, a dentist will catch it early and fill the tooth before it becomes infected or requires a root canal.

It is still possible to let the kids enjoy their Halloween evening and trick or treat expedition. However, make sure they are educated about the effects the sugar will have on their teeth, and how a cavity can progress into a far worse condition that causes pain and an unpleasant trip to the dentist.

This kid-friendly infographic illustrates the “scary” things sugar will do to your teeth and includes some candies to avoid this Halloween—did you know one piece of taffy has 6.8 grams of sugar?

This should be an adequate incentive to get them to brush and floss, without just telling them candy will put holes in their teeth.

Happy Halloween!

 

 

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