Our sweet tooths start to perk up once October hits. We practically get a sixth sense when Halloween is around the corner, thinking of the Reese’s peanut butter cups and the Kit Kats and every other candy that can fall into the fun-sized category. Adults and kids alike can’t help but crave some of the amazing treats that are symbolic of this holiday. But whereas adults might know how to enjoy Halloween while protecting their teeth (and keeping their dentist happy), these are things that need to be explained more thoroughly to children. In today’s blog, we’ll be doing just that.
Frederick Smiles Dental Care is the family dentist of choice in the Frederick area, providing cosmetic dentistry and general dental services to so many for years. So much of dental health is focused on the time outside of your dental visits, which is why we advocate so strongly for preventative care. Our dental clinic is committed to providing the best experience for each of our patients, from the moment you enter our clinic to all the moments leading up to your next visit. Take a look at some of the ways to help kids (and adults) maintain healthy dental habits this Halloween, and contact us to schedule an appointment with Frederick’s best dentists.
Help kids understand nutrition.
If you knew candy tasted amazing but had no idea it was bad for you, would you be inclined to stop eating it? We’re guessing not, or at least, not until that final sugar crash would push you over the edge. Kids are figuring out how to navigate their entire world, so they won’t just automatically understand that candy has sugar, and sugar is bad. They, like the rest of us, need explanations and examples to make this information relevant and applicable.
At practically any age, you can start talking to your kids about nutrition and sugar, but this is a discussion that will become especially relevant when they start asking “Why?” when you put the kibosh on their sweets intake. Especially for elementary school-aged children, visuals can go a long way. The first step is to help kids understand the effects that sugar can have on their teeth.
Have kids feel the coarseness and graininess of sugar, and maybe even have them practice rubbing it on softer surfaces, like a Kleenex or a darker piece of paper, and reflect on what it does to the surface. Make the connection between sugar and their teeth—what will sugar do to if there’s too much interacting with their teeth? Once they understand how sugar can be harmful, look at the amount of sugar in certain foods (specifically candy). Ask kids if they think they should be eating a lot or a little sugar, and at this point, they’ll likely have constructed their own knowledge that too much of it can have negative impacts on their teeth and health overall. Bring this back to preventing cavities and encourage conscious, intentional decisions and realizations your kids start making regarding their dental health.
This does not have to be solely the job of parents. In fact, to best reinforce these ideas, it’s good practice for teachers, schools, coaches, and any adult figure to spend some time talking about this with kids as well. Not to mention, not every family might have the ability to spend time discussing healthy dental habits this Halloween. Nutrition is one of the most important parts of our lives, and in order to create the best lifestyle as a whole, a healthy diet is more easily maintained when it starts in childhood.
Establish a plan for Halloween candy.
Let’s face it—the point of Halloween when you’re a kid is to get as much amazing candy as possible. Trying to stop this from happening is going to be way less fun than rolling with it and creating memories with your family. When you make a plan for Halloween candy from trick-or-treating with your kids, this will reduce the chance of debate later on (and more importantly, the late night whining that can come from lack of sleep, overstimulation, and sugar).
The key here is to make a plan together. But as an important note, this will only be possible if your children understand what sugar can do—because otherwise, who wouldn’t want to gorge themselves on Peanut M&Ms for hours on end? Ask kids first how many pieces of candy they think is a reasonable and healthy idea to choose/eat after trick-or-treating. Have a conversation about this, and if they’re struggling to come up with a reasonable amount, there are two things you should do. For one, remind them that they’ll get to eat their candy, but it just needs to be spaced out. If they’re still indicating that they want to eat everything and live in a world of candy anarchy, give them limited choices. This might look like “You can pick three pieces before trick-or-treating and three after, or you can choose six total after trick-or-treating.” Limited options still gets kids involved in the decision making, but within reason. Not only will this be best for your kids, but for you as well (and their dentist, too!)
Review dental health routines.
Hopefully at this point, your kids understand that too much sugar is a bad thing. Now’s the time to reinforce this connection to Halloween, and this is a great opportunity to review dental health routines. Just like with working out, completing school work, and getting to bed at a reasonable hour, routines are something that need consistent practice. Sometimes when we approach a unique or special time of year (like around the holidays), it can be easy for routines to fall to the wayside, meaning it’s an excellent time to revisit them.
Reference our blog post on flossing and brushing if you need to check in to make sure you and your family are correctly performing dental procedures. Have conversations with your family about why it’s important to maintain brushing and flossing our teeth, and reflect on how this morning and bedtime has been going. Use a method like “green light, yellow light, red light” to drive conversation.
With this discussion tool, think of and list “green light” practices that are happening—things that are going well that you want to continue. Maybe one green light you’ve noticed is how your 8-year-old is brushing their teeth the first time you talk to them, without needing reminders (though of course, focus the question on your children first to encourage self-reflection). Conversely, a “red light” is something to stop doing. Take both of these pieces to form a yellow light, or in other words, an action step. An example might be, “I’m brushing my teeth for a minute, but I’m procrastinating on brushing teeth in the morning. I’m going to work at brushing my teeth right away once I get up.”
When you’re helping kids drive the conversation and take ownership of their attributes, the things they need to work on, and their goals, you are helping them become reflective and responsible people—skills that far surpass the limits of the dental world (but are still helpful for their teeth nonetheless).
The thing that’s great about each of these tips is that they are applicable to people of all ages. We all want to enjoy the sugary spoils of the season, but when we practice self-reflection, moderation, and healthy habits as a whole, we’ll be able to enjoy things to a fuller extent. No matter if it’s Halloween or Hanukkah, regardless of if your teeth are looking flawless or like Frankenstein’s, the dentists at Frederick Smiles Dental Care are here to help. Contact our dental clinic for cosmetic dentistry, family dental services, and everything in between. Schedule a visit with Germantown and Frederick’s best dentists today!