With Halloween nearly here, you might be looking for healthy Halloween treats to help you and your family limit your sugar intake and prevent problems such as cavities. Your dentist is an excellent resource to help you do just that! Contrary to popular opinion, most dentists don’t hate Halloween candy or the holiday in general. Your dentist just doesn’t want you or your family to cause lasting damage to your teeth by consuming massive amounts of sugar over a very short period of time.
Sugar itself isn’t really the villain here, either. Sugar, while tasty and in nearly every processed food we consume, has the unfortunate side effect of feeding the most harmful bacteria in your mouth. Those bacteria consume the sugar and then release acids that damage your tooth enamel. That damage can eventually cause destructive cavities if left untreated.
Now, you can probably see why dentists cringe at the idea of the giant bacteria buffet filling all those trick-or-treat bags each year. At Sierra Smiles, we don’t want to be the Grinch who stole Halloween, but we do want you to protect your teeth by making the best choices possible! We’re sharing some ideas for healthy Halloween treats that won’t be as damaging to your teeth, as well as the worst Halloween candy for your teeth and some tips for protecting your smile through every season.
Dentist-approved Healthy Halloween Treats
A proven way to prevent Halloween candy cavities is to choose dentist-approved healthy Halloween treats and give out healthy alternatives (if you’re greeting trick-or-treaters this year). Believe it or not, there are quite a few tasty snacks that won’t cause the problems Halloween candy does while still giving you that fun snack feel. Healthy Halloween treats can include:
Sugar-free gum with Xylitol: While we don’t necessarily want you to chew gum constantly, the occasional piece is just fine. It’s especially fine when used as a healthier alternative to Halloween candy. Xylitol literally starves those harmful bacteria we mentioned above, making it a way better option for satisfying that sweet tooth.
Pretzels: These hit the mark of crunchy and salty without too much added sugar. This time of year, you’ll find a lot of brands package them in small bags, making them easy to pass out on Halloween and equally easy to hand over to the kids when they’re hungry.
Crackers: Everyone loves a pack of Goldfish or Cheez-it crackers. The tangy flavor and salt are extremely satisfying and the fun-size bags make the perfect pre-portioned treat.
Granola Bars: This one is a little trickier because granola bars do have more sugar, especially those packed with candy or chocolate. Take a look at the sugar content on the nutrition label to make sure you aren’t just giving candy disguised as a healthy snack.
Water: Believe it or not, a sealed bottle of water is actually really appreciated by many trick-or-treaters. All that walking is hard work and a personal-size bottle of water is a great way to quench their thirst.
Toys: This is by far the easiest solution. Temporary tattoos, pencils, spooky rings, glow sticks and erasers are just a few options that are really exciting for kids to receive. The added benefit is that those with food sensitivities or allergies will get a treat that is inclusive of their needs.
Halloween Candy to Avoid
For those who find Halloween candy irresistible, we can at least help you by sharing some types of Halloween candy to avoid when you’re not in the mood for healthy Halloween treats. Remember, this is not a recommendation for you to consume massive amounts of the candy not on the list. It’s just to help you make better choices when the candy bowl at the bank is too tempting to resist.
Gummy candies: Yes, those gummy bears sure do look cute, and they are quite tasty, but the lingering sugar that sticks to your teeth will create bacteria that attack as ferociously as their namesake animal. Sticky candy just, well, sticks! When it sticks to your teeth, that’s prolonged fuel for all the destruction bacteria can cause.
Sugar-coated candy or loose sugar candies: All candy has sugar, but some candies go the extra mile by rolling the treats in additional sugar or forgoing any sort of illusion of candy altogether. Think gummy candies coated in sugar, or those straws filled with loose flavored sugar. These are definitely Halloween candies to avoid.
Popcorn balls/caramel corn: Popcorn can be damaging enough because of the way the kernels can get wedged into your gums or between your teeth. Even diligent flossing can miss those pesky hulls because they can cup your teeth so the floss glides right over. Add a sticky mess of sugar syrup or caramel and you’ve got trouble.
Hard candy: Hard candies pack a double whammy of potential problems. First, they sit in your mouth for a long time, turning your saliva into a sort of sugar rinse that washes around your teeth — fabulous for the hungry bacteria, not so great for your teeth. Second, they can break your teeth when biting into them. Hard candy didn’t get its name for nothing, after all! Even the best crowns and dental appliances are vulnerable to the perils of hard candy, not to mention weakened teeth or teeth with hidden cavities.
Caramels, nougats and chews: Like hard candy, caramels, nougats and chews don’t just damage your teeth with sugar. They can pull out fillings, snap off orthodontic brackets and end pull out loosened permanent teeth. That means a trip to the dentist to repair any damage.
Preventing Cavities Year-round
One of the best ways to battle the potential fallout from Halloween candy is to have a healthy mouth to begin with — kiddos included. After all, just because their primary/baby teeth will eventually fall out doesn’t mean kids don’t need to care for them. If you want to help both you and your kids during the upcoming holiday candy festivals ahead (after Halloween comes even more candy-heavy holidays), make sure everyone in the family brushes regularly with a fluoride toothpaste and an intact toothbrush or electric toothbrush.
Supervise your kids as they brush to make sure they are doing it properly and for a long enough period of time. You should also help your child floss daily to keep their young gums healthy. The primary teeth may not stick around long, but your gums are forever! And remember, leading by example is the best way to show your kids how to take care of their teeth, so make sure you are brushing and flossing too. Don’t forget your regular check-ups for professional cleaning and a thorough inspection for your dentist to stop problems before they start. Learn how taking care of your mouth benefits your entire body by downloading our free ebook 10 Things Your Mouth Says About Your Health.
If you have more questions about how to protect your teeth through the holidays, or if you need to schedule an examination and cleaning, give us a call at one of our convenient locations.