A Parent & Dentist's Guide to Halloween - Keep them smiling!

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Written by: Flavia Lamberghini

FlaviaLamberghini is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the UIC Pediatric Dentist Postgraduate Program who also directs Apple Dental Care, an state-of-the-art pediatric dental clinic located in the Logan-Square area. Dr. Lamberghini holds a Master in Public Health and a Master in Oral Sciences which she obtained at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr Flavia, besides her clinical work and teaching, together with her team also provides preventative dental care to students of more than 60 CPS schools across the city. Flavia is married to Fernando Testai MD PhD, an Assistant Professor of Neurology at UIC. Together they have two children, Sofia and Martin that they adore.

While little trick-or-treaters look forward to Halloween festivities, many parents get concerned about the oral health hazards associated with holiday. Slowly snacking on candy every few hours, day after day, keeps teeth bathed in acid that leads to dental caries (cavities).

Candy is largely devoid of nutrients and constitutes empty calories. The best option is to allow children to eat their candy in one sitting and then get rid of the leftovers. In this scenario, acid will build up in the mouth, but the saliva will naturally neutralize it over the course of an hour.

We dentists usually caution parents even about “healthier” options like crackers, pretzels, cookies, and popcorn that can also be packed with sugar, stick in the grooves of teeth, and promote decay. When choosing among candy, the sticky and sour kinds are the worst for teeth.  Sticky candy bonds on the teeth for longer than others, and sour candy tends to have more acid.

Halloween can actually provide children an opportunity to enjoy treats while learning good oral health habits. Parents can help prevent cavities for their little ones with these tips:

  1. Add Halloween-themed pencils and stickers to your basket of candies; you will be surprised to see how many children choose them.
  2. Encourage kids to choose candies from their loot that melts quickly and can be eaten easily. Try to avoid gooey and chewy candies (like caramels) that linger in the mouth.
  3. After enjoying any sugary treat, encourage kids to brush their teeth or at least swish their mouth with water, which lessens the amount of time sugar stays in contact with teeth.
  4. Don’t leave candy around the house after Halloween. Store it in a hidden place out of kids’ reach, or participate in a candy donation program. Our office, Apple Dental Care (3012 W. Fullerton Avenue), participates in Operation Gratitude, which sends the candy to US troops while your child receives a toothbrush in return. Feel free to stop by the office after Halloween to trade your candy in for a toothbrush! Or become a“Halloween fairy” that turns the remaining candy into a toy.
  5. Talk to your kids about oral health.This is a great time to reinforce the twice-a-day brushing and daily flossing routine. Talk to your child’s dentist about dental sealants to protect the decay-prone grooves in your child’s molar teeth and fluoride varnishes as preventive measures to help protect teeth year-round.

Smile and have a fantastic safe Halloween!  Flavia Lamberghini is a DDS, MS, MPH, Board Certified Pediatric Dentist.  Her practice, Apple Dental Care, is located at 3012 W Fullerton Avenue, Chicago IL 60647. Learn more at www.appledentalcare.org.

Posted on October 09, 2012 at 9:37 PM

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