PORT CHESTER, N.Y. - Theres no need to remind children, or parents for that matter, that Halloween is just around the corner. With that in mind, Rye Brook dentist Lou Cooper has some tips to help parents prepare to celebrate a holiday centered on the consumption of sugary treats while still watching out for their childrens health.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes 180 pounds of sugar and 24.7 pounds of candy per year, statistics that bring us right to Halloween only a few Snickers bars away. For most children, this means gobs of Gobstompers that will keep them sugared up till the spring thaw. But for parents, Oct. 31 means a grab bag of health challenges.
Kids understand that it is a sweet holiday and there is a lot of candy involved so its not particularly healthy, said Cooper, a dentist at NY Pediatric Dentistry on S. Ridge Street. It gives us an opportunity to emphasize oral health and let children know how, and how much, they should eat.
The American Dental Association has suggestions for parents so their kids can maintain good oral health despite Halloween and throughout the year. Halloween candy and other sugary foods should be consumed with meals, because saliva production increases while eating. This helps neutralize acids produced by bacteria in the mouth and helps rinse away food particles.
Cooper adds that, in terms of oral health, it is better to eat sweets at one time rather than incrementally throughout the day. Cooper also warns parents to be careful of what types of candy their children are eating.
The best way is to be selective of what they have. If they want a piece of chocolate as opposed to a lollipop, that is preferable," he said. "Those candies are cleared from the mouth relatively quickly rather than those you are sucking for 10, 20 or 30 minutes.
The length of time food remains in the mouth plays a role in hastening tooth decay. Unless it is sugar-free, hard candy subjects teeth to prolonged acid attack, which increases risk for tooth decay. This means it is recommended to avoid sticky candies that cling to the teeth, including taffy and gummy bears, among others. These confections take longer to get washed away by saliva and increase the risk for tooth decay.
After consuming, there is more that can be done to ensure better oral health. Drink more water fluoridated if possible - to fight tooth decay and chew sugarless gum which, according to Cooper, can stimulate saliva to help clear sugars from the mouth.
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