Trick or Treat brings lots of sweets, but holiday fun needn’t bring out the tooth decay monster. Children and adults love to indulge in the sugary stuff and no one wants to get a toothbrush in their treat bag, so enjoy the fun with a few extra precautions. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children, and children who develop cavities in their baby teeth are more likely to develop cavities in their permanent teeth later. Prolonged exposure to sugar-containing liquids can erode teeth early on. Limit consumption of soft drinks or sweetened fruit juice; a sippy cup should only be filled with water and never taken to bed, which allows liquid to collect around the teeth. Limit sugary and starchy snacks, especially those that can remain stuck in teeth after eating.
Preventative Care for Children
Proper preventative oral hygiene starts before there are teeth. Clean an infant’s gums with a clean, damp cloth after each feeding. From the first tooth, use a soft brush and water to establish the routine. Avoid misalignment as teeth develop by monitoring excessive sucking of pacifiers, fingers and thumbs. Get children to drink water from an early age and be sure it is fluoridated if bottled. Children learn by example. Encourage them to try brushing their own teeth while you go through your daily routine, and slowly teach them proper brushing technique. A child should brush for two minutes twice a day, using a pea size dab of fluoridated toothpaste after age 2. For younger children, use warm water, a cloth and a soft brush to clear any debris from tooth and gums.
Six months after a child’s first tooth erupts is the time to begin regular dental visits. Starting early lessens anxiety for the child and familiarizes the dentist and parents with the child’s individual needs. Your dentist can recommend preventive care if necessary.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, some 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dentalrelated problems. As children become more socially conscious, untreated problems like bad breath, misalignment or tooth decay can cause embarrassment among peers. A confident smile is important at any age.
Can some kinds of candy be better than others? Anything that sticks to the teeth and lingers can be problematic. The key is good oral hygiene is getting the sugar past the teeth.
Candy to be Aware of
So, what are the worst candy monsters to watch for this Halloween? Coming in at the top are those super-sticky candies like gummy worms, taffies, caramels or candies filled with coconut, peanut butter or nuts. These candies leave a sticky residue on your teeth and gums which acts as an adhesive for bacteria, ultimately resulting in decay. Those bite-size chocolate bars can leave a mouth full of sugar behind.
Sour candy has a double whammy. In addition to sugar, if it makes you pucker, it probably contains large amounts of acid. Acid is bad for your teeth because it wears down the protective tooth enamel, making it easier to break and chip teeth. A lack of enamel that acts as insulation can expose the nerves in your teeth, which are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature of the things you eat and drink.
Hard candies are hard on teeth. Chewy candies are a better option if you crave the satisfaction. Hard candies typically take much longer to dissolve in your mouth than chewy candies, meaning that you are essentially covering your teeth in the sugar and acid for longer, making your teeth more vulnerable to cavities. Avoid hard candies like suckers or jawbreakers this Halloween and opt for chewier ones for your sugar rush.
So, go ahead and enjoy those treats, in moderation of course. The damage to teeth is caused by the leftovers in your mouth, so be sure to brush and floss away those particles to eliminate the sugar and acid residue in your mouth. Scare away cavities and have a Happy Halloween!
Tooth Talk will appear every other Monday in the Union-Sun & Journal. Igor Kaplansky, DDS, graduated cum laude from the University at Buffalo School of Dentistry after earning a degree in his native Russia. Kaplansky is a family dentist, covering all aspects of dental health, including braces and implants. His office is at 8038 Rochester Road, Gasport. Contact him at 772-7500 or www.drkaplansky.com. If there is a topic you would like discussed in this column, email your request to [email protected]