By Dr. Amanda Franks, Director of Clinical Operations at Alta Smiles
Photo by Charles Parker
Halloween candy can be a parent’s nemesis when it comes to keeping their little one’s teeth clean and cavity-free. While there will be an increase in candy intake over the next few weeks, parents should be aware of how sweets and treats can affect their child’s teeth all year long.
When it comes to our teeth, all candies aren’t created equal. Sugary, sticky candies like gummy bears sit on the teeth much longer than their chocolate candy counterparts which are more easily rinsed away by saliva. The longer that sugar sits on the teeth, the more likely it will contribute to decay. Some of the worst offenders are hard candies like lollipops that are consumed over a prolonged period of time, continuously bathing the teeth in sugar, and once bitten into, can easily stick into the grooves of the teeth.
It's all about minimizing the amount of time that teeth are being exposed to a sugary, acidic
environment. Beyond choosing foods that stay on the teeth for a shorter period, the timing of when your child eats candy is a critical factor in achieving this. If they are going to have candy or a sweet snack, make it a part of the meal or at the end of a meal when salivary flow increases and helps to dilute the acids produced by the sugar-loving bacteria in our mouths as well as rinse away particles of food.
Water is the best drink to pair with any sweet treat. Like our saliva, it helps to neutralize our mouth’s
pH and rinse away food left behind. In fact, the American Dental Association recommends waiting until 60 minutes after we’re done eating to brush our teeth and instead opting for drinking some water immediately after eating to maintain strong enamel and prevent cavities. Keep in mind other drinks like juices, soda, and even milk contain sugars that can cause cavities, the same as candy. For that reason, they should try to be consumed during meals as well.
Here are some top tips on how to help children take care of their teeth and minimize sugary foods:
Talk about other ways that we keep ourselves clean and healthy - we wash our hands, we take baths, we wash our clothes to prevent getting sick and so that we smell good. We brush our teeth twice a day and floss for the same reasons - to keep our mouths clean, healthy, and smelling good. If we don't brush our teeth, a sticky film called plaque stays on our teeth. Plaque has germs in it that can cause tiny holes in our teeth, called cavities, and can also cause bad breath.
Talk about how we eat healthy foods to help our bodies grow and become strong. Eating healthy foods also helps keep our teeth healthy. Food and drinks that have lots of sugar in them, like candy and soda, can make that cavity-causing plaque grow more quickly, which is why it's important to eat and drink them sparingly.
Make brushing time fun! Brush your teeth alongside your child so that they get to be just like you. They should be brushing for 2 minutes each time they brush, so using a song around that time length is a great way to make it all the way through. A quick online search of “toothbrushing song” yields plenty of great results.
Halloween shouldn’t be the only time of year to focus on taking care of our teeth. On top of regular
brushing and an overall healthy diet, regular 6-month dental checkups are important for kids once their first teeth start coming in.
To learn more about proper dental care and orthodontic treatments, visit https://www.altasmiles.com/.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Franks attended St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences. She then went on to receive her DMD degree from Temple University's Kornberg School of Dentistry.
As a sophomore in undergrad, Dr. Franks began working as an orthodontic assistant in the office of Dr. Benjamin Cassalia, the pioneer of the innovative, completely concealed orthodontic technique called C5 Hidden Orthodontics. After graduation, Dr. Franks joined his practice as an associate in 2012 and has treated many patients with this revolutionary technique since that time.
Dr. Franks joined the Alta Smiles team as both Director of Clinical Operations and Supervisory Clinician in 2020. In this role, she has helped with combining Alta Smiles’s technological advances with Dr Cassalia’s proven technique to build a training program that makes it easy for any dental practitioner to implement C5 Hidden Orthodontics in their office.