(Family Features) Halloween is a fun time of year filled with costumes, parties and sweet treats. But, sometimes parents worry that all those sugary treats can lead to cavities and poor dental health. The good news: It's not what children eat, but how often, and candy can be OK if children and parents are conscientious.
"No food is really bad for children's teeth who do not snack often," said Dr. Warren Brill, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). "In fact, many parents may not realize that children's dental health depends less on what they eat and more on how often they eat it."
All types of sugars, and the foods that contain them, can play a role in tooth decay. About 90 percent of all foods contain sugars or starches that enable bacteria in dental plaque to produce acids. This attack by bacterial acid, lasting 20 minutes or more, can lead to loss of tooth structure and to cavities. So, a child who licks a piece of hard candy every few minutes to make it last longer, or slowly sips a sugared drink while studying, is flirting with a higher risk of tooth decay. Such long-lasting snacks create an acid attack on teeth for the entire time they are in the mouth.
"Halloween should be fun, and sweets can be part of that fun," said Brill. "But, it is important for parents and caregivers to remember that moderation is the key in keeping children, and their mouths, healthy."
Below are a few simple ways the AAPD suggests will help keep little mouths healthy this Halloween:
- Snack in moderation, no more than three times a day.
- A food with sugar or starch is safer for teeth if it is eaten with a meal, not as a snack.
- Tooth brushing should be performed twice daily. The best times to brush are after breakfast and before bed. Parents should supervise the brushing for school-age children until they are seven to eight years of age (about the same time they can tie their own shoelaces or write in cursive).
- The best toothbrushes have soft, round-ended (polished) bristles that clean while being gentle on the gums. The handle should be the correct size to fit your child's hand.
- Select a fluoride toothpaste with the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance.
For more information about children's dental and oral healthcare, visit www.MyChildrensTeeth.org. As the recognized authority on pediatric oral health care, the AAPD is committed to providing parents and caregivers a trusted resource when looking for information and guidance related to their child's dental health.
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