Trick or treat! Halloween candy is undeniably intertwined with this time of year. The billion-dollar holiday sees Americans forking over some $3 billion for candy to pass out to trick or treaters! That’s a lot of candy to consume, meaning potential problems for tummies and teeth across the nation. Keep reading for ideas on how to make this ghoulish holiday plenty sweet and a little more healthy.
The Connection Between Candy and Cavities
The thought of having a cavity filled can be frightening enough for some kids to mind their candy consumption, but others may need a little more information. If your inquisitive kiddos are asking “how does candy cause cavities,” we’ve got the answer you need.
Sugar doesn’t directly cause cavities, however, it does feed the cavity-causing bacteria. Eating a lot of candy leaves excess sugar on and around the teeth and gums. Bacteria feasts on those sugars and excretes acids that cause tooth decay.
Sugary Drinks Affect Teeth Too!
Wait, sodas and juices affect teeth, too? We know, it’s a bummer to think about skipping apple cider and other sugary drinks during the Halloween festivities. The good news is that you don’t have to avoid them altogether, just beware that drinking sodas and juices regularly could have negative consequences.
Soda is highly acidic and can rather quickly cause erosion of tooth enamel. Juices do double damage. Not only do they contain enamel-weakening acid, but most juices also have high sugar levels.
Save these beverages for special occasions, like Halloween, and take proper precautions to protect your teeth. Try sipping water while you drink them or rinse your mouth with water after finishing your juice or soda.
How Halloween Candy Affects Teeth
More than 40% of kids say they get over 100 pieces of candy at Halloween, and about 20% of them say they eat all of it! Even if it takes a few weeks to more than a month, many kids munch on their Halloween candy for a while after the big night.
Keep in mind, over two weeks children are expected to consume an additional four and a half cups of sugar in addition to their regular meals. It’s no wonder that the cavity-causing bacteria population can explode during this time.
Candies and Foods to Avoid This Halloween
Not all candies are created equal, meaning some do more damage than others.
- Hard candies, like Jolly Ranchers, suckers, and jawbreakers continuously drench teeth and gums with sugar for as long as it takes for the candy to eventually dissolve. Plus, if a child bites down on hard candy, it’s possible to crack or chip a tooth.
- Chewy candies, like taffy, toffee, gummies, and caramel get stuck on and in between teeth. They are also exceedingly difficult to clean off, meaning they sit there feeding that bad bacteria.
- Candy apples are Halloween staples, but they can cause chips or cracks in teeth on top of the added sugars.
- Dried fruit is sticky and difficult to clean off teeth.
- Caramel popcorn is also sticky and gets caught between teeth.
- Chips and crackers sound like a healthy alternative, but the starches and oils can be just as damaging to your teeth.
Consider your options carefully when picking through the pile of goodies. It’s certainly okay to have some of these in moderation, but you may want to schedule a routine check-up and teeth cleaning sooner than later.
Halloween Candies That Are Safer for Teeth
As noted above, some candies can scratch that trick-or-treat itch without causing as much trouble for teeth.
- Sugar-free candy can promote saliva production, which actually helps defend teeth against cavities.
- Chocolate bars that do not contain a sticky gooey center eventually dissolve and are also much easier to brush and floss away. Plus, dark chocolate contains some helpful antioxidants for an added health boost!
- Powdery candy, while practically pure sugar, dissolves quickly and can be rinsed away efficiently with a simple glass of water.
Additional Healthy Halloween Treats
Halloween doesn’t have to just be about candy! You can have plenty of spooky fun with healthy Halloween snacks.
- Apples are plentiful this time of year, and you can pair them with several things, including yogurt and dips. They offer a satisfying crunch and a little sweetness.
- Halloween veggie ideas include carrots, cucumbers, and celery for some crunch, and you can dress them up to fit with the season. Try a veggie skeleton or carve and roast veggies in fun shapes!
- Savory snacks can be just as festive as candy, and much healthier. Rolled deli meats, hot dogs, and ghostly pizzas are more filling too!
Non-Edible Halloween Alternatives
You don’t need to celebrate Halloween with food. In fact, some kids prefer some of these inexpensive trick-or-treat alternatives:
- Halloween-themed pencils or erasers
- Glow necklaces
- Small toys, like bouncy balls or plastic rings
More Healthy Halloween Tips
We know that Halloween can be exciting and fun for people of all ages, but it can be stressful at times. Here are some helpful tips and tricks to make your Halloween healthier and safer.
Healthy Halloween Party Food Ideas
Whether you’re hosting a party or need a healthy Halloween food to share at a potluck, it’s not always easy to come up with something fresh and appealing. These ideas are sufficiently spooky but surprisingly healthy.
- You can make Halloween-inspired pizzas in various sizes with multiple topping combinations.
- These Pumpkin Bars have plenty of healthy ingredients, and you can make several substitutions to fine-tune them for an easy healthy Halloween treat.
- Spider Bites are the perfect example of a sweet and savory healthy Halloween snack.
- Hibiscus and Blood Orange Punch can add a bit of color and flavor to your party.
Managing the Candy Haul
Inevitably your kids make it home with their haul, dump it all out, and you watch in horror as hundreds of pieces scatter across the floor. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of gummy, chewy, sugary sweets, and you somehow have to stop your kids from eating it all in one sitting. Don’t fret, we’ve got some ideas about how to make it less stressful this year.
- Create a “Candy Bank” and allow kids a certain number of candies per day or week as a treat they can earn.
- Keep candy in a place where unsupervised and continuous eating cannot occur.
- Do a swap of candy for another fun item or activity, like a few extra minutes of screen time or a slightly later bedtime.
- Donate Halloween candy to a good cause, like helping our troops or first responders.
At the end of the day, Halloween is all about the fun. It’s okay to indulge in some candy and sweets, but take extra time to care for your teeth. Commit to brushing and flossing thoroughly to remove the excess sugars.
You may also want to schedule your child for their regular check-up and teeth cleaning for extra protection. Find the Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics office nearest you, then schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist.