Halloween and oral health

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The kids plan for it. They talk about it. They pick out their costumes and candy well in advance ... it's Halloween! 

The holiday changes many parents' normal, daily food routines for their families and gives adults permission to snack on their kids' candy after they have gone to bed.  All this sugar consumption causes a silent war in our children's' and our mouths.  What can we do to prevent cavities?

Moderation is the key in keeping children and their teeth healthy during the holidays. According to Dr. Warren Brill, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, "Many parents may not realize children's dental health depends less on what they eat and more on how often they eat it."

Here are some healthy tips for this Halloween season:

- Snack on candy no more than three times a day.  Brush your teeth after eating candy; however, if that is not possible, swish with water.  Rinsing with water will help clean the mouth so food particles do not stay on the teeth, which allows more acid production by the bacterial plaque in your mouth.  This bacterial plaque coating normally leads to tooth decay

- Brush twice daily for two minutes at a time.  Parents should supervise their children brushing their teeth until they are 7 or 8 years old.

- Be mindful of sour candy, as it tends to be very acidic, some with a pH, also known as acidity level, close to that of battery acid.  If you or your child indulge in sour candy, wait at least an hour to brush because the dissolved tooth structure the acid creates can then be brushed away easily by the abrasives in toothpaste.

- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush which fits in your child's hand.  At the direction of your dentist, children can begin the use of fluoride toothpaste with the American Dental Association's seal of acceptance, meaning the ADA has evaluated the product for safety and effectiveness.  Flossing should begin when the second tooth emerges and is just as important as brushing to prevent gum disease and decay between the teeth.  Dental visits should begin by the child's first birthday.

- Ask your dentist about dental sealants, which are protective plastic coating and can be applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to help prevent decay from those areas hard to reach with toothbrush bristles.

Have a happy, healthy and safe Halloween with your little critters.