Dentists’ warning to keep teeth healthy during Halloween

Australians taking part in ‘trick or treat’ this Halloween should eat sweets in single sittings rather than repeatedly returning to the pantry throughout the day to grab more, say the nation’s dentists, as grazing on sweet treats is one of the worst habits for teeth.

“Most people won’t know this, but it’s better to consume sweets over a shorter period, than to repeatedly expose your teeth to them over a prolonged period of time,” says Canberra dentist and Australian Dental Association (ADA) President Dr Carmelo Bonanno.

“This is because every assault of sugar that goes into your mouth feeds bacteria which create acid that dissolve the tooth enamel, exposing the mouth to decay. Doing this repeatedly throughout the day, over a few days or in the week after Halloween, is cumulative.

“Smart alternatives to sweet treats are a great option for young mouths, like little games, toys or sports gear,” suggests Dr Bonanno.

ADA’s tooth tips to avoid tooth decay risk this Halloween: 

  • Eat sweet treats at mealtime: the saliva produced to help digest larger quantities of food can also cleanse and buffer mouth pH from acids caused by food and drink;
  • Chocolate wins over candy: dark chocolate has much lower sugar quantities than other chocolates and lollies;
  • Rinse mouth with water: after eating anything sugary to rinse foods and drinks from the mouth;
  • Consume Halloween party soft drink with a straw: that way the liquid goes straight to the back of the throat, bypassing teeth;
  • When shopping for treats: go for treats that aren’t sticky and don’t sit in clumps in back molar teeth – sticky sweets are more difficult to remove and linger longer, increasing tooth decay risk;
  • Brush teeth twice a day and floss daily: whatever the date!
  • Keep children happy with the ADA’s new recipe book `Tooth-friendly Treats’,which is packed with delicious low-sugar recipes. Buy the e-book here or the paper copy here.

While there are no official guidelines from the Commonwealth Department of Health, NSW Health has put out these guidelines to help families have a fun but safe time:

  • Halloween should be a front-yard event, not a front-door event (keep it outdoors);
  • Provide closed packaging for treats and instead of communal bowls, consider other ways of distributing treats like strewn along the front fence;
  • Have hand sanitiser at the front gate;
  • Trick or treat on a household basis (e.g., a supervising adult and children from the same household), rather than groups of young people together, with a maximum of 30 people gathering outside;
  • Maintain 1.5 metre distance between people of different households – don’t all crowd together in a pack;
  • Don’t share costume face masks;
  • Stay home if sick;
  • People isolating should not receive Halloween visitors;
  • Practice good hand hygiene and use hand sanitiser after touching common surfaces;
  • Know the local restrictions in your state and work to those.

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