For kids, Halloween is a day filled with fun, enjoyment and of course, trick or treat! But it is also a day on which both children and adults eat lots of candy. It is fun, but also a cause for concern because teeth cavities are caused by excessive sugar intake. However, there are ways in which you can still enjoy some candy while ensuring that your teeth remain protected from cavities. But before we learn how to do that, it is best that you understand how candy or chocolate can damage your teeth, to begin with.
The part of your tooth not covered by the gum is called the crown. This part is covered by the hardest tissue in the human body which is called the dental enamel. The enamel gets its strength primarily from a crystalline material called calcium apatite. Your teeth are also moistened all the time by your saliva. The saliva is also rich in the same mineral- the apatite. Under normal conditions mineral from the enamel migrates to the saliva, and mineral from the saliva keeps migrating to the tooth, in a balanced two-way exchange.
When you eat anything, some very fine particles of it are left stuck to your teeth. No problem yet. In fact, all humans have huge populations of multiple strains of bacteria in their mouths. Most of these are harmless. However, because of poor oral hygiene maintenance, harmful bacteria also start to accumulate on the teeth. These bacteria immediately come into action and start converting the sugars and starches in these particles to acid. That upsets the cart.
Obviously, this acid mixes with saliva making it less basic than it normally should be. The two-way migration of apatite between the saliva and the enamel is disturbed. More enamel migrates out of the enamel than into it. We say the enamel gets demineralized. Gradually it becomes porous and erodes. In time cavities can form. So, now we understand that more frequently your child eats sugars, the higher the chances of getting teeth cavities.
The effect is more pronounced when the bacteria gets more time at their job, and Halloween festivities are the perfect time for them. These bacteria become the real beneficiaries of Halloween candy. The “ghosts” and “goblins” eat and offer candy. Eating lots of candies and sugary drinks provides the bacteria the perfect chance to enjoy their Halloween as well.
The primary strategy to counter the effect of Halloween is to deny the evil forces a chance to strike. Does that mean no candy and no sweet drinks? No, absolutely not. So, what is my advice? Here are some options.
Control the snack frequency - This is the best combination of Halloween enjoyment and precaution. Research has shown that it is not the quantity, rather the frequency of sugar intake which is more important in causing teeth cavities. Therefore, you should limit your frequency of sugar intake. Snacks should not be consumed more often than three or four times in the day. This way, there will be lesser time for the enemy bacteria to attack the teeth. As a result, the chances of teeth cavities can be easily minimized.
Merge the snacks with meals - This is another way of doing the same. Let the Halloween enjoyment be merged into regular meals and make your meals more enjoyable. And let the bacteria “grind their teeth” in anger while you enjoy Halloween.
Choose the right types of snacks - Sticky foods will cling more and longer to the teeth after consumption. This offers the bacteria to act longer. Deny them that by choosing the snacks carefully. Why not give up candy in favor of better foods. As an example, caramels dissolve faster than potato chips, breakfast cereals, dried fruit, and even bread. Also, choose healthy types of snacks that will provide nourishment while providing enjoyment. How about cheeses, chocolate milk, yogurt, vegetables, and peanut butter? These are all healthy foods. If prepacked foods attract you more, here are some alternatives to candy:
o Small boxes of cranberries, raisins, and other dried fruits in attractive packing.
o Small packages of trail mix.
o Small packets of potato chips and pretzels
o Small packages containing chips, cookies, and crackers. Should be low fat and baked.
o Smallest Juice boxes, making sure they are100 percent pure juice.
o Chewing gum without sugar.
o Low-sugar fruit salads.
o Small packages of pumpkin seeds.
o Packets of the sugar-free cocoa mix.
Clear the field - Remember the modus operandi of the evil bacteria. They operate of sugars and starches sticking to your teeth. So, how about cleaning your teeth immediately after every round of sweets and snacks? That may be a little demanding but is a sure way of protection from the enemy attack. The cleaning is best done by brushing, but in case that is not possible, at least rigorous rinsing of the mouth after every snack should be done.
Visit the dentist - Your next visit to the dentist should come soon after Halloween. Be sure to clear any ill-effects whether due to Halloween candy or otherwise.
Probably the best way to reduce sugar intake is to be educated about the enemy; the bacteria. Know that bacteria want to damage your teeth, so try to keep your sugar intake at a minimum, and take good care of their teeth. This Halloween, remember the real enemy.
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