Delta Dental offers tricks to avoid scary treats

October 26, 2010

San Francisco — Of the $9 billion spent annually in this country on candy, an unhealthy portion goes toward sugary Halloween treats. That's why a group of Delta Dental companies wants to remind parents that when it comes to cavities and teeth, not all candy is created equal.

“Frequent and prolonged exposure to sugar increases the risk of tooth decay,” said John Yamamoto, DDS, vice president of Professional Services for Delta Dental of California, Delta Dental of Pennsylvania and their affiliates. “Parents can help decrease how much sugar comes in contact with their children’s teeth by moderating the amount and frequency of candy consumed.”

Oral health experts have long identified sugar as a major risk factor of tooth decay and cavities. Sugar feeds naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth, which form a colorless, sticky film called plaque. Cavity-causing microorganisms within plaque feed on sugar and turn it into acid, which attacks tooth enamel and causes tooth decay.

Sticky or chewy candies in particular result in sugar being available for the plaque bacteria to metabolize it into acid for longer periods of time. When children chew sticky candies such as caramels or taffy, candy gets stuck on the surface and in between crevices, creating a fertile environment for decay-producing plaque to release their acid attack

Monitoring your child’s sugar intake and ensuring regular brushing habits to remove plaque will help prevent tooth decay this Halloween and decrease the risk of cavities. Here are some tips for parents and children this Halloween:

  • Choose candy that can be eaten quickly and easily to limit the amount of time sugar is in contact with the teeth.
  • Steer away from sticky candies like sugared fruit snacks, caramels, popcorn balls and other candies that expose the teeth to sugar for long periods of time.
  • Candy isn’t the only culprit. Raisins, dried fruit and starchy foods also expose teeth to sugar.
  • Encourage children to eat a small amount of candy in one sitting followed by a glass of water or a thorough tooth-brushing.
  • Encourage children to eat a good meal prior to trick-or-treating, so there will be less temptation to fill up on candy.
  • Avoid buying Halloween candy too far ahead of time to remove the temptation for children (and adults) to dig in early.
  • Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
  • Encourage brushing at least twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste, flossing and getting regular dental checkups to help establish good oral health habits in children and to prevent cavities all year long.

Halloween is a great time for parents to think about their children’s teeth, but oral health should be a lifelong concern for the entire family. “To help prevent cavities and tooth decay, parents should monitor their child’s candy and sugar consumption year-round and encourage good oral hygiene,” said Yamamoto. “Adults, too, should follow the same preventive measures to help ensure their own good oral health.”

Good oral health habits include brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily and visiting the dentist every six months to ensure the sugary villains don’t stick around on teeth long after Halloween is over.

Delta Dental’s website for children offers oral health information, games and interactive tools to help kids – and their parents – learn more about oral health and preventive care. For more information, visit:

Delta Dental of California, Delta Dental of New York, Delta Dental of Pennsylvania and several other Delta Dental companies under common management, collectively provide dental benefits plans to nearly 25 million people in 15 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. All are part of the Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA), based in Oak Brook, Ill., which consists of 39 Delta Dental member companies licensed in all 50 states. The association collectively covers 54 million of the 174 million people nationwide with private dental insurance, making it by far the largest national system of dental plans.

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