MAYWOOD, Ill. – A big sack of candy is the top priority for most children at Halloween but with some easy substitutions, adults can offers kids treats that preserve dental health and Halloween fun.
"Every year right after Halloween I get emergency visits from parents with kids who have damaged teeth caused by Halloween candy," said Martin Hogan, DDS, division director of dentistry, Loyola University Health System. "I hate to see my young patients suffer from painful and avoidable injury and their parents bear the inconvenience and expense of an unplanned dental visit."
Here are Dr. Hogan's list of top villains at Halloween and recommended substitutes that will make adults the true superheroes of this magical season.
Hard Candy Horrors
"Kids do not suck and savor candy; they chomp and chew," Hogan said. "Fruity, hard candies and sour bites with powder or gooey centers can lead to cracked teeth, punctured gums and a tender roof of the mouth." Instead of hard candy, try snack-size bags of pretzels or crackers filled with peanut butter or cheese, Hogan said. "Pretzels or crackers give kids the satisfying crunch without the sugar and potential tooth breakage," he said.
Say “Boo!” to Bubble Gum: Bubble gum or candy-coated gumballs are what kids like to chew and they bathe the teeth in continuous sugar, Hogan said. Sticky bubble gum can also loosen fillings or other dental apparatus.
"Choose a gum made with xylitol to actually improve dental health as the ingredient discourages dental decay," he said. Xylitol is a plant-based, natural substance with no chemicals or harmful side effects.
Caramels Cause Calamity: Caramel or caramel-based candy not only coat teeth with a sugary wash, but the chewy, sticky confection wedges in between teeth and stays there, promoting tooth decay. Instead of caramels, Dr. Hogan prefers Halloween-shaped wax items such as oversized lips or mustaches. "Halloween treats are not just candy and food," he said. "Wax lips, glow sticks, bouncy balls and washable tattoos offer terrific holiday appeal with no harmful health side effects."
Ghastly Gummies: Gummy bears, worms and other fun shapes may be cute, but they also stick in teeth and can cause decay. Hogan suggested individual packs of character-shaped cheese or graham crackers. "The fun, childish appeal is there and the little crackers are often available in Halloween colors and shapes," he said.
Troublesome Taffy: Banana, grape and cherry taffy is no laughing matter when it sticks in the teeth and causes cavities.
"Small packages of pumpkin or sunflower seeds or peanuts taste good, last a while and do not promote dental decay," Hogan said. "Plus nuts and seeds are a good source of protein."
The Loyola Oral Health Center in Maywood is located on the first floor of the Maguire Center on the east side of the medical center campus. The Oral Health Center provides full dental services, including general dentistry and preventive care for adults and children, and oral and maxillofacial surgery.
The 19 patient-care rooms include seven that are dedicated to general dental care, four to oral surgery, four to dental hygiene and two to recovery.