The Trick IS the Treat!
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans purchase more than 600-million pounds of candy every year for Halloween. That’s incredible for one night of sugar-inducing comas that can rival the living dead – but sugar isn’t the only monster! The ingredients in candy can be deadly to any child who lives with a variety of food allergies. Recognizing the amount of sugar, what candy to avoid, and what you can do if your child has a food allergy can help uncover how the trick IS the treat!
Let’s just get this out of the way – sticky, gummy, treats that take a while to dissolve in your mouth are considered to be the worst when it comes to sugar and sweets. If you are already prone to dental decay, meaning you have the strain of bacteria (S. Mutans) associated with dental decay, then eat Halloween candy with caution! Sugar gives the bacteria energy to stick to teeth and eat its way into your tooth! The result is an active infection, until stopped by your dentist.
What you can do is pick a time of day “to treat eat.” Select a few pieces of candy and finish them up with water. It won’t help when sugar in candy is mixed with sugar from fruit juices, soda, sports drinks, etc; that’s why water is so important here. Then, wait at least 30 minutes after eating to brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste, clean in-between teeth and rinse with a fluoride mouthwash.
If you have a chance, purchase candy with xylitol, a natural sugar whose benefits include stopping bacteria from sticking to teeth and keeping the pH in your mouth neutral. Zollipops, for example, are a great choice!
Finally, don’t forget about food allergies. 1 in every 13 kids has a food allergy. It must be one of the scariest things a parent can encounter each Halloween. Can you imagine wondering whether or not the candy that is given will initiate an allergic response? You or your dental practice may want to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project. If you see a home that has a Teal Pumpkin, then that means they are providing non-food treats for trick or treaters. This is a safe way to include kids who live with food allergies and okay, yes…non-food treats may just combat the epidemic in our profession – tooth decay in children.
So if you’d like to trick the treat this Halloween, beware of the ghoulish ingredients in what you eat and watch what you give away!
Anastasia L. Turchetta, RDH
America’s Dental Hygienist