What’s scarier than the dentist?
October 28, 2008
Jawbreakers, caramel, suckers and taffy are among the worst trick-or-treat cavity culprits for kids. Chocolate isn’t so bad.
Some dentists and orthodontists in Summit County say they see an increase in tooth damage, decay and broken braces after trick-or-treaters gorge on pillowcases of pilfered Halloween goodies and some practices, such as Canyon Dentistry, are actually paying kids to surrender candy.
"Anything hard, sticky or chewy can break braces," said Orthodontist Paul Lingen Brink, who practices in Park City. He said brushing immediately after eating candy reduces the risk of build-up on the teeth that causes plaque and erodes enamels. Kids with braces and retainers are especially vulnerable to cavity-causing plaque because they struggle to clean those hard-to-reach crevices along the gums and in the back of the mouth, where teeth have deep grooves. "The problem I have is that they eat a ton of candy and just don’t brush," Brink said.
Chocolate isn’t as bad as gummy treats because it melts relatively quickly and doesn’t fester in the mouth.
Sue Johnson knows the woes of getting kids to brush. She has helped managed her husband’s business, Advanced Cosmetic Dentistry, for 30 years. She is also a mom.
"I’ve given out toothbrushes for Halloween in the past," she said, "kids weren’t too happy about that."
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Johnson tried to make toothbrushes attractive holiday fare. She bought brushes that had black bristles and orange handles. Other models glowed in the dark.
It was no use. Instead, she decided to simply offer more healthful sweets. She recommends chocolate and sugarless gum with xylitol, a natural sweetener found in berries, fruit, vegetables and mushrooms. Some studies have found the sweetener actually helps minimize tooth decay.
At the same time, she discourages parents from giving tooth-whitening gum and suckers because they expose teeth to sugar over a long period of time.
Protect teeth over time
Johnson hears it all the time: I was just eating a bagel, a patient says, and my tooth broke. What most people fail to realize is that teeth weaken over time, and once a cavity has been filled or bridgework completed, a teeth do not regain full resiliency. "A natural virgin tooth is strong," she said, "but any time dental work has been done teeth are more prone to breaking."
Dentists say the No. 1 way to treat maladies of the mouth is to avoid them in the first place. Floss, rinse and eat fluoride to prevent weak teeth. Diet also ranks high on the list of things to do for strong teeth, a responsibility that falls on parents. "Don’t let kids eat all their candy Halloween night," Shauna Stringham, a dental hygienist, said.
But sweet and sticky treats aren’t a parent’s only concern on Halloween. Michael Ward of Snow Country Dental Care added popcorn kernels, seeds and raisins to the list of don’ts because they frequently get caught in crevices. "The main thing is kids are going to eat candy," he said. "They just have to brush well after they’re done."
For more advice on Halloween candy do’s and don’t, visit aaortho.org.