Keep your child’s teeth from getting ‘tricked’ by Halloween candy

Boy in skeleton costume holding bowl full of candies

For many children, Halloween is a fun time of the year. What's not to like about dressing up in cute or spooky costumes and being showered with free candy? Keep in mind, though, that those sugary treats can lead to “tricks” on your child's dental health. Here are some tips for maintaining good oral health while enjoying Halloween with the family.

Your child doesn't have to eat all the Halloween candy!

Special treats like candy, if enjoyed infrequently and on special occasions, may not cause dental problems by themselves.

After your little trick-or-treater has collected all the loot, go through the bounty of goodies with your child. Some children will diligently organize the candy by type, flavor and size, while others will simply enjoy the size of the candy pile. This will give you an opportunity to do a safety check of your child's collection.

Encourage your child to select a few favorites to enjoy today and for other special treats in the future, and then talk about how to share the rest. There are many dentists who’ll collect your child's extra candy for donation to worthy organizations, like deployed troops or first responders. This is a great way to encourage healthy eating, and generosity as well. Another idea is a Halloween trade-up — allow your child to trade candy for a nonsugary alternative, such as fresh fruit, or an activity, like a trip to the park or the zoo.

Not all treats are equal

Although anything with a carbohydrate (like that sugary candy) can contribute to tooth decay, some candy is worse than others for your child's teeth. Sticky candy, like taffy or caramel, can be particularly bad for teeth because it stays on them longer.

Does mouthwash kill the mouth’s healthy bacteria?

Remember the toothbrush

The most important “treat” for your child is to ensure they brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste. Brushing before bed is the most important time, even after a long evening of trick-or-treating. Most children can reliably brush their own teeth well after age 6 or 7, but parents should handle the brushing for younger children. And every child should visit a dentist twice a year, starting by age 1, to make sure those teeth are as healthy as they can be.

Remembering these tips can help your child's teeth stay healthy this Halloween and all throughout the year.

To schedule a new dental exam, contact your family dentist or the Pediatric Dental Clinical at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry.

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