We all know what Halloween means! Tons of free candy that could last all the way to winter. Dentists, on the other hand, think of all the painful cavities that are bound to form. Trips to the dentist go easier for children who have been taking care of their teeth, and dentists want you to know that eating all of that Halloween candy should be done with care to avoid oral health concerns.

Here are 9 Halloween tips for the better oral health of your child!

1. Always After a Meal

Candy and other sweet treats are best eaten right after lunch or dinner. That’s because your mouth creates the most saliva while eating a moderately-sized meal, which helps the sugar wash away faster along with acids created by bacteria that eat the sugar. Munching on candy all day makes cavities more likely because everything stays in your mouth longer.

2. Create Healthy Eating Habits

Teach kids that everything they eat becomes the building blocks of their body so that they can grow up strong. Do they want their bodies to be built on crumbly sugar, or strong muscles? This is a bit of an exaggeration, but gets the idea across that everything we eat becomes part of us, fueling us and protecting our health. And remember that hard fruits and healthy veggies will help remove some of the stuff left on teeth.

3. Brush and Floss

The ADA recommends brushing twice every day, preferably after meals, and flossing once a day. While brushing, use fluoride-enriched toothpaste with the ADA Seal and remember to check your toothbrush for bent bristles which mean you should replace the brush. Flossing is important to remove plaque and the food bits that bacteria love to eat.

4. Find Good Candy

Sugar-free candy tends to be better for your teeth, even if most kids don’t want it. Perhaps the best sugar-free option is any all-natural xylitol-sweetened gum with the ADA Seal, because chewing sugar-free gum after eating candy creates more saliva to wash the sugar away faster along with acids created by sugar-eating bacteria in your mouth.

5. Identify Problem Candies

Candy that remains in your mouth for several minutes is worse than candy you eat straight away, because staying longer contributes to any tooth decay. This includes hard candies like lollipops which also might chip a tooth when bitten, sticky candies like caramel that leave particles between your teeth which take longer to wash away, and powdery candies that get into every crevice of your mouth.

6. Keep Less, Eat Less

Of course, the goal of Halloween is to get as much candy as possible, but that doesn’t mean eating all of it! Encourage your kids to put aside the stuff that isn’t their favorite. Make it a fun event to donate the unwanted candy to organizations like Operation Gratitude that sends candy to soldiers, or check if your dentist is running a Candy Take-Back service. You can also offer kids different options like trading pieces of their candy for online game money or toys.

7. More Water, Less Soda

Drinking more water helps wash out the sugar stuck in your mouth, and the best kind of water to help prevent tooth decay is fluoridated water – which you can find bottled. And while the kids are still eating their way through their candy stash, make sure that they cut back on sugary drinks like soda which can increase the rate of tooth decay. Plus, sweet drinks don’t taste as good when you’ve recently eaten candy!

8. Sweet Treats that Aren’t Candy

Fruit is a great sweet option for kids craving sugar, and you can even find individually-wrapped options to hand out on Halloween. Other good ideas include crunchy vegetables, creamy cheese sticks and nutrient-rich yogurt packs.

9. Out of Sight

Don’t hide candy, because determined sugar-seeking kids will turn that into a treasure hunt and sneak more. But if everyone knows where the candy is and you are simply keeping the candy “out of sight, out of mind,” then you can teach them to control their impulses. Try sorting the Halloween haul into 2-3 serving bags, and promise them a few pieces of candy every week as a reward for doing chores or good behavior.

Dr. Stephen A. Coates, DDS, is a member of multiple dentistry associations and provides state of the art codentistry with over 1300 hours of continuing education. He and his team in Long Beach, California want to help you achieve a stunning smile with their services and support. Contact his office soon with questions or to schedule your appointment!