At Halloween dentists might see a rise in emergencies such as broken teeth or loosened crowns. This may be because people tend to eat harder or stickier foods than usual or do things they don’t normally do such as cracking nutshells with their teeth or playing boisterous games. What’s more, at this time of year, more subtle damage can occur with the onslaught of sugary goodies and sticky treats which can lead to cavities down the line. However, you can take a few simple steps to avoid your own Halloween nightmare and protect your family’s teeth.
PREPARE FOR COMBAT
Tooth decay is caused by acid eating away the protective enamel. Acid is produced when bacteria in the mouth feeds on sugar. We don’t suggest you spoil Halloween for the kids and stop them enjoying a few sweet treats on the day, but if you have them brush their teeth just before the Halloween party you get ahead in the battle by reducing much of the bacteria. Brushing immediately after eating just spreads the acid around the mouth.
NIGHTMARE ON ENAMEL STREET
From twenty minutes to an hour after you stop eating, saliva, which is alkaline, neutralises the acid. Avoiding snacks between meals helps limit the number of times tooth enamel is exposed to acid. If the kids dip into their spoils while out Trick or Treating the temptation is there to graze all afternoon and evening, prolonging the acid bath. How about awarding spooky stickers or toys for keeping the goodie bags intact until after a substantial dinner? Make a game of it by covering the bags in fake cobwebs and spiders until the plates are (magically) cleared.
SWAMP OF GOO
The worst treats for your teeth are the gooey ones like toffee and caramel as they stick to the surfaces and in between teeth. If possible, switch them out for fast dissolving sweets such as chocolate, which doesn’t linger as long in the mouth.
NUTS, TRICK OR TREAT?
If your household is free from nut allergies, though they are a hard food, there is no reason why reasonably healthy teeth cannot have this traditional Halloween fare. Dentally speaking, crunchy is better than sticky. Nuts are packed with nutrients including calcium, zinc and magnesium and are good for teeth. Some nuts, such as cashews and walnuts, are softer than others and easier for small teeth to handle.
Adults who have crowns or bridges etc should go very carefully with very hard foods and certainly avoid sticky toffee. Those who wear braces for straighter smiles are also reminded to avoid both types of foods.
If you are serving your vampire guests cranberry juice, or for adults, Bloody Marys, provide straws to help keep the acidic juice away from teeth. The celery served with a Bloody Mary is low in acid but also a good, crunchy and saliva-inducing tooth cleanser.
Teeth are meant for biting and chewing food. It can be too easy to forget when you are having fun, but they are not designed to be nut crackers or bottle openers. Though healthy teeth are strong, improper use can easily lead to chips, fractures or loss of a filling.
THE END IS NIGH…
Sugar free gum helps produce extra saliva which will neutralise acid faster and also wash out the mouth. Gum containing the sugar free sweetener, xylitol, has also been linked with remineralisation of tooth enamel. For adults and kids old enough for gum make sugarless chewing gum containing xylitol the last treat of the party.
Have a happy, healthy Halloween!