Word of Appreciation

Updated: 02/25/2011

Halloween Tips for Your Gremlins’ Good Oral Health

By Sheila Wolf, RDH (Mama Gums)

Every year, when the air gets crisp and the leaves start to fall, I remind myself to restock my supply of neon-colored toothbrushes, dental floss, toothpaste samples, and assorted sugarless gums and mints. On the last day in October, I plunk them into those bright orange pumpkins, outstretched in front of the most gruesome costumes. I’m a dental hygienist, and I have been doing this for more than 30 years.

It’s the least I can do to protect the kids in MY neighborhood against the onslaught of the sugary treats Americans buy every year to hand out for Halloween. According to the National Confectioner's Association, 20 million pounds of candy corn are sold for Halloween alone. That doesn’t include the bite-sized chocolate bars, lollipops, and other confections that abound. Adults are also susceptible to this sugar ambush since ninety percent of parents admit to sneaking goodies from their kids' trick-or-treat bags. (wink)

The residues of sugar and carbohydrates left on the teeth - and in the crevices between - nourish the over 600 species of microorganisms that could be lurking in your mouth, ready to attack the enamel and soft tissues of those of us who are unsuspecting. These “bugs” even hide in the nooks and crannies of our tongues.

So what do we do about all that potentially decay-causing gooey stuff that sits temptingly in those loot bags? Here are a few suggestions to handle Halloween sensibly.

Before the trek around the neighborhood, serve a healthy, high fiber supper. Whole grains and veggies will keep your child’s belly full leaving less room for sweets.

Use their sack of goodies to set up a “candy store” and allow your child to “buy” only a few pieces of candy at a time. Place the rest in a sealed container and establish agreements ahead of time about when the candy will be available.

Make certain candy is age-appropriate. Children under five should not be given very large or hard candies. These can chip teeth or even cause choking.

Follow the swish and swallow rule. After eating sweets, a child should drink water and swish around the last mouthful before swallowing to help rinse sugar away from teeth until there is time for proper brushing.

What is proper brushing?

Place the toothbrush half on the tooth, half on the gum.

Angle the bristles at a 45 degree angle towards the gumline and brush both teeth and gums using short, back-and-forth scrubbing motions. Your gums will enjoy the gentle massage.

Brush for a 2 full minutes, cleaning all 5 surfaces of every tooth: the fronts, backs, tops and in-betweens. Since your toothbrush cannot get between most teeth, flossing or irrigating is necessary.

Brush or scrape the bacteria from your tongue at least once a day.

Follow a system so you are sure not to miss any areas.

Make sure a thorough brushing happens before bedtime, because the hours of sleep are the longest time of the day when the mouth is closed, dry, and vulnerable to bacterial activity. This is especially important on the night of the goblins with its abundance of Halloween booty. Offer your child a new, brightly colored toothbrush as a final trick or treat. But, if you’re in my neighborhood, be sure to bring your jack-o-lantern to my door and in addition to dental supplies, you’ll get the toothbrush demonstration I always include in my Halloween ritual.


Sheila Wolf “BIO”

Sheila Wolf, RDH, affectionately called “Mama Gums,” has been a registered dental hygienist since 1971. She is currently retired from clinical practice but enjoys writing, speaking, and consulting on various oral health issues. She has authored two award-winning books, Pregnancy and Oral Health: The critical connection between your mouth and your baby, and Your Mouth Could Be KILLING You. Both are available on her website, http://www.mamagums.com/about_book.html, through Amazon, and at finer bookstores everywhere. Sheila also works with people privately as an oral wellness coach, educating and empowering people to keep their natural teeth for a lifetime, avoid gum surgery, and just possibly add years to their lives. You may reach Sheila through her website, www.mamagums.com or in San Diego at 866-MAMA-GUMs. 

Sheila will happily share her articles with you. Please acknowledge her contribution by including her “Bio” at the end of the article.

Mama Gums