Chocolate can be better option when choosing Halloween candy, says UNLV dental expert

Halloween candy is nearly synonymous with cavities, especially if you or your children have a fondness for sour and sticky sweets.

According to the National Retail Federation and National Confectioners Association, Americans in 2017 are expected to spend a record-breaking $2.7 billion on Halloween candy. About 71 percent of celebrants plan to hand out candy and 31 percent plan to take their children trick-or-treating, statistics show.

UNLV School of Dental Medicine's Dr. Cody Hughes has a few tips on how to avoid ghoulish consequences, such as your dentist's disapproving glare, by keeping your dental health in mind while having fun.

Healthy eats before sweets

Eat pieces of your trick-or-treat bounty or any sweets directly after a meal instead of as snacks throughout the day. This will help keep your mouth's pH level even, which is crucial to preventing cavities.

"When we eat sweets, the pH level in our mouths drops and if it falls too far, the enamel of our teeth demineralize and weaken. And when the pH remains low for an extended period of time due to frequent sugary intake, cavities develop. So eat less candy less often."

Drink water after eating candy

The quickest way to raise that pH level and remove lingering sugar is to drink water. This holds true for all candy, juices, and other sweet foods. Have your children swish with water and swallow after they finish their treats.

Go for chocolate

Some candies and snacks will get you to a cavity quicker than others. The worst offenders are sour and sticky. The sour variety plunges the mouth's pH faster than other candies, while the sticky keeps pH levels at lower levels for longer periods of time. According to Dr. Hughes, chocolate is a better option when choosing candy with your dental health in mind.

Brushing really matters

Your dentist harps on brushing all the time because it provides a huge benefit. Parents should brush their children's teeth until age 8 or 9, which is usually when kids develop the skills for brushing well. And even at that age, parents should supervise their children's brushing habits.

One other tip: Keep your dentist appointments during the holiday season.

"During the busyness of the holiday season," Hughes said, "postponing a dental check up until the new year may seem like a good idea, but the longer those cavities go undetected and untreated, the larger they become. This can result in pain, infection, increased costs, and increased time for treatments. So make the time to get your children and yourself to the dentist for regular check-ups."

Posted in: Child Health News | Healthcare News

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