The Halloween season is infamous for its plethora of ghosts, monsters, witches and other scary sights, but none of these visions is more frightening than the prospect of ruined teeth. While responsible dental hygiene and general dentistry routines are critical for your oral health all year round, you may have to practice some extra vigilance to keep the evil spirits away from your teeth on October 31st. Here are some tricks worth trying.
Hand Out Healthy Treats
First and foremost, you can do your part to promote dental health this Halloween by giving trick-or-treaters items that taste great but are less likely to damage their teeth. Sugarless candies are one obvious option, but you can do even better by handing out foods that actually promote good health instead of simply doing no harm. Kids and grownups alike love string cheese, for example, and you can get it in convenient little packets. Cheese is rich in calcium and other nutrients that strengthen teeth, making it a great "anti-treat treat." If you're hosting a Halloween party, decorate fruits and vegetables in keeping with the season and serve them as appetizers, accompanied by pumpkin dip in its own natural bowl.
Choose the Non-Sticky Stuff
All sugary Halloween treats are not created equal, at least as far as tooth decay is concerned. The worst offenders are the gummy, chewy, or otherwise sticky products. These treats play a cruel trick by latching onto your tooth enamel, gums and dental work. The stronger the bond, the more trouble your saliva will have dissolving the substance, which means a longer exposure time and a higher risk of tooth decay.
Chase That Candy With Water
Water has been called the universal solvent, and this quality is certainly a useful one when you're trying to dilute and remove Halloween debris from your mouth. Carry a bottle of water with you, and take frequent slugs from it to help maintain cleaner gums and teeth throughout the evening. For an extra dose of protection, drink fluoridated water from your sink instead of store-bought water.
Please note that you won't get the same protective effect from drinking most other kinds of fluids. Sodas, sports drinks and undiluted fruit juices are probably the worst possible choices for dental health. The first two both contain tooth-rotting amounts of sugar; soda is also highly acidic. Acidity is the main problem with fruit juices, although they can contain high sugar levels as well. Green tea, on the other hand, is actually good for teeth and gums, so feel free to indulge in that.
Add Non-Sugar Dental Hygiene Products to Your Treat Bag
It doesn't take the sugars and acids from sugary treats very long to create an unhealthy environment inside your mouth. You can minimize this threat throughout your holiday evening, however, by enjoying certain non-sugar products between candy binges. Chewing sugarless gum, for instance, can help remove bits of leftover food from tooth enamel, which is one reason many dentists encourage their patients to take up the habit. (But first ask your dentist to recommend a brand that won't threaten your dental work.)
Gum, mints, and other products containing xylitol can also provide your Halloween fangs with some helpful protection against bacteria. This natural non-sugar sweetener can help kill the bacteria responsible for tooth decay. It may also play a role in helping teeth remineralize themselves more effectively, resulting in stronger, thicker enamel.
Go to Bed With Clean Teeth
No matter how careful you and your fellow ghouls have been about selecting smart treats and minimizing your teeth's exposure to sugar and bacteria, make sure you spend a little extra time and attention in the brushing and flossing department before you hang up your witch's hat for the night. Tiny particles of food -- even relatively healthy food such as apples or cheese -- can and will attract bacteria to the outer surfaces of your teeth, both above and below the gum line. Careful dental hygiene will help you get through another Halloween without enduring the subsequent nightmare of tooth decay or gum disease.
While none of these strategies replace the need for regular, skilled family dentistry, they could make your family's next round of dental checkups happier occasions. Don't let this Halloween become frightening for all the wrong reasons -- celebrate wisely, and scare those dental threats away!