Expert Offers Tips for Children’s Dental Health at Halloween

Richmond, VA – With candy consumption peaking during the Halloween season, parents are being challenged to find ways to help protect their children’s dental health. Sugar-filled candies fuel acid development that damages teeth, leads to cavities and other adverse effects on oral hygiene. So, it should come as no surprise that October is designated as National Dental Hygiene Month.

Charmaine Chappell, Dental Assisting Program Director at ECPI University’s School of Health Science, Medical Careers Institute (MCI) in Richmond can provide important advice on ways to help mitigate the damage.

“There are specific dos and don’ts strategies and even games to help kids get a clean bill of dental health and give parents peace of mind,” Chappell says. Here are some of the most important tips she has to offer:

1. Parents should make sure their children brush at least twice a day, and three times if possible.  If youngsters aren’t in a place where it is feasible to brush, give them a piece of sugar-free gum to chew.

2. At Halloween, children may like to eat treats from their candy haul right before going to bed. Be sure to have children brush before going to bed as bacteria in dental plaque tends to increase in number during the hours of sleep when the mouth is closed and less saliva is produced.

3. Parents can make brushing fun by having them use a plaque-revealing rinse that leaves a purple hue where plaque has formed. Instruct them to brush with the goal of removing the color; it turns tooth brushing into a game.

4. Be sure youngsters use toothpaste that contains fluoride and that they brush from one side to the other and top to bottom to be sure no area is missed.

5. Adults can also encourage a dental-healthy Halloween by giving out non-sugary treats. Options include sugar-free gum and candies, cheese sticks, peanuts, sunflower seeds and popcorn.

6. Serve kids dinner or have a healthy snack such as peanut butter crackers and some fruit before trick-or-treating; have them take along grapes or nuts in case they attempt to devour the candy while in route.

7. Be careful not to let children fill up on sugar over the next several weeks because this may deprive them of other nutrients they need.

8. Avoid sticky candy that adheres to teeth and causes decay such as gummy bears, taffy, caramel and fruit chews.

9. Studies have shown that the length of time eating a sweet can be more harmful than the amount of sweet consumed. This means hard candies, lollipops, and breath mints – which spend a longer time in the mouth – can actually be worse for teeth than a whole candy bar. Avoid eating any candy slowly over an extended time.

10. Parents may want to place the candy on the top shelf so that you can proctor and distribute it over the following days.

For more information or to set up an interview, please contact David Brandt at the number above or at dbrandt@ecpi.edu.

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