I have always loved Halloween. I know that is a contradiction for a dentist to admit, and no, it is not because of all the candy drumming up business. I have always loved the excitement of the day; how kids dress up and celebrate while teens watch their favorite scary movie. While this year may be a bit different due to COVID, there inevitably will be candy associated with Halloween.
More than that, Halloween is the beginning of a seemingly 2 month indulgence of sweets for many children (and adults alike). With that in mind, what is a responsible dentist to do? Some offices participate in a sweet “buy back program” where your children can exchange their collected treats for other items. While that is a good idea for many, I have always been a bit unsettled by purchasing candy from a child. To be perfectly honest, I know that then the candy will sit here and ultimately be deposited on my waistline.
In reality, the problem is not candy. Candy, and the sugar it contains, definitely has the potential to demineralize (decay) teeth regardless of one’s age. But to have a significant risk for decay, you need a sufficient amount of contact time of sugar (as an acid) against the teeth. Eating candy all night long will definitely provide that contact time. I doubt however, a singular night of candy indulgence will promote tooth decay. Neither will one or two pieces of candy for dessert over the period of a few weeks. The key is responsible candy moderation. By that, I mean eating a few pieces of candy in a contained 10-15 minute period. I would recommend following the candy with rinsing with water (or even brushing!!!) . These will help to cleanse the teeth. Of course candies that are really sticky (Cowtails, Laffy Taffy, Butterfingers) are far worse than pure chocolate. And please, don’t let your children bite the tootsie roll pop…that could break a tooth.
While I don’t love the wonton candy of Halloween (nor the effects of the sugar on my children), I am not fearful of cavities, as long as we are “regulating” the consumption of said candy. And the dentist in me will use this holiday to remind my children the importance of good oral hygiene, every day of the year.