Here in Columbia, we embrace Halloween (though as dentists, we get a little queasy about the effects of all the candy).

The River City is host to an almost-scary array of Halloween events for all ages. Historic Columbia is home to seasonal Spirits Alive! cemetery tours as well as the annual, citywide Trunk or Treat event at the Robert Mills House. Other activities include the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden’s Boo at the Zoo, and the big corn maze at the Clinton Sease Farm.

While we should all have fun on Halloween and indulge our collective sweet tooth a bit, it’s important to remember that tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children, and that sugar is the leading culprit. Following are some ideas to limit sugar this Halloween without limiting the fun.

Halloween candy can damage teeth

Alternatives to Giving Halloween Candy

You don’t want to be the house that hands out toothbrushes, but you also don’t have to add to the sugary snacks trick-or-treaters will already take home on Halloween. A few kid-friendly alternatives to candy include:

  • Temporary tattoos
  • Glow sticks
  • Stickers
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Pencil toppers

An increasing number of manufacturers and retailers offer bulk products targeted for Halloween giving as alternatives to candy. Items as diverse as Goldfish crackers and Play-Doh come in Halloween-friendly packs.

Maintaining Healthy Teeth Around Halloween

Halloween is not a one-day sugar binge. Many of us sneak a few pieces before the holiday, then graze on the lingering candy for weeks afterward. Some tips to protect your teeth during this time include:

  • Limit or spread out chewy candies like caramels and gummy bears/worms, which stick to the teeth and allow prolonged contact between sugar and the teeth enamel
  • Moderate the consumption of hard candies like lollipops, which release sugar slowly as they dissolve
  • Ration the candy; don’t let children (or yourself) grab at will, but rather save it for after a meal or as a reward
  • Give precedence to chocolate over hard or sticky candies; chocolate dissolves quickly, and dark chocolate has some antioxidant benefits
  • Drink water or rinse with water after eating candy; this helps flush some of the sugary residue from the teeth and maintain moisture in your mouth

Remember to brush your teeth regularly, but don’t brush immediately after eating candy. Brushing too soon after eating—especially after consuming sugary or acidic foods—can actually harm the teeth enamel. It’s best to have some water or chew a piece of sugar-free gum, then wait at least an hour before brushing and flossing.

The Columbia, SC, dentists at Smile Columbia Dentistry are dedicated to helping patients maintain beautiful, healthy smiles. If you’re considering cosmetic dentistry treatment, or if you’re due for a checkup and teeth cleaning, please call us today at (803) 791-9090 to schedule your appointment.