Trick or Treat ... or Cavities?
Use Halloween as a time to teach your children important lessons about nutrition and dental care.
Avoid Tooth Decay continued...
"I always tell parents that they should try to encourage their kids to limit eating to breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snack times," says Steiner. "And drink water between meals. Most water systems in the U.S. have added fluoride. When we drink water, it helps by washing some acids out of our mouths and it also supplies fluoride, which protects against decay."
Children should brush three times a day for two minutes and rinse with a fluoridated mouth rinse, according to the American Academy of General Dentistry. Fluoride treatments, applied directly onto teeth, are also available in any dentist's office.
Steiner says he recommends children have their first checkup between one and two years of age with a pediatric dentist.
Of course, nutrition and weight came up in any discussion of children having unlimited access to candy.
"I would never tell kids they can't eat their Halloween candy," says Kilfoil. "But I would recommend that parents start telling their kids a few days before Halloween that they can have one or two pieces of their candy after meals."
Kilfoil says Halloween provides a good opportunity for parents and children to talk about eating right and maintaining a healthy weight.
"A lot of our children are becoming obese or are at risk for obesity, and holiday times too often send the message that overeating is OK," she says.
Obesity is the leading cause of pediatric high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. The CDC reported in 2000 that 15% of American children aged 6 to 19 are overweight, up from 11% from a survey conducted from 1988 to 1994. The prevalence of obesity in the young varies by ethnic group. Childhood obesity is more common amongh African-American and Hispanic kids than among whites.
Kilfoil says that one Halloween-candy strategy parents can try is to go through their children's haul and try to weed out the candy that has high fat content.
"Candy that is all sugar isn't all that much better, but at least it has fewer calories," she says.