You wouldn’t think a dentist’s office and trick-or-treaters would have a common goal at this time of year, but Dr. Mayada Kheriba is trying to change that. Every year, her dental office in New Hamburg, Ontario hosts a “candy buy back” a week after Halloween, where kids can swap their extra candy for cash.“We started it three years ago as an initiative to give back to the community,” says Dr. Kheriba. “The kids wear their costumes to the office and receive a dollar for every pound of candy they trade in. The candy is then donated to Ronald McDonald House at Sick Kids Hospital, where it is shared with young patients – along with their siblings and families – who may have missed out on Halloween.”
Last year, Dr. Kheriba’s team collected 54 pounds of candy (and likely prevented a few cavities). To prepare for the treats your kids will be eating, Dr. Kheriba has some tips for their post-Halloween dental care routine:
Tip #1: Don’t ration the candy to a few pieces a day for the first half of November.
You might think you’re taking a moderate approach by having your kids pace themselves with one or two treats for dessert at each meal, but from a dental health standpoint, this strategy is counterproductive. “The problem with snacking on candy throughout the day over an extended number of days is the acidic sugar,” explains Dr. Kheriba. “When we eat something sugary, the bacteria in our mouths break it down into acid that weakens the tooth’s enamel. The constant acidic exposure results in a higher risk of cavities.”
Obviously, you don’t want your kids to overdo it and end up with a sore stomach on Halloween night, but they’ll do less damage to their teeth (and likely consume less candy overall) if you let them indulge for a couple of days and then move on.
Tip #2: Brushing and flossing aren’t as effective.
At least, not when performed in that order. While we may instinctively instruct our kids to “brush and floss,” the truth is that flossing before brushing is the key. “By flossing first, you remove the food debris between the teeth,” says Dr. Kheriba. “This allows the toothbrush bristles and the fluoride in the toothpaste to fully access the tooth structure and keep it clean.”
Tip #3: Don’t worry about over-brushing.
It’s a great idea to have your child brush his or her teeth immediately after consuming candy. But is there a down side to frequent brushing, like overexposure to fluoride? “There is very little danger of too much fluoride exposure, as long as you are confident that your child can spit out the toothpaste properly,” says Dr. Kheriba. “If in doubt, have your child brush just with water or with a fluoride-free toothpaste during those extra brushing sessions.”
Tip #4: Not all candies are equal cavity-causers.
Candy is candy and sugar is sugar, right? When it comes to tooth decay, some candies are actually more problematic than others. According to Dr. Kheriba, “sticky candies such as gummies and caramels tend to cling to the teeth and stay in the mouth much longer, weakening the enamel and increasing the chance of cavities. The same goes for candies that are sucked on, such as lollipops or Life Savers.”While sugar-free candy (or no candy at all) is obviously preferable, within the candy universe, Dr. Kheriba recommends treats that are eaten and swallowed right away, such as mini chocolate bars. Still, before your family inhales the whole pile of “fun size” Kit Kats, do a bit of research to see if there’s a candy trade-in or donation option near you. You’ll all feel better, and so will your teeth.