Trick-or-Treating Tips for Oral Health this Halloween

October 27, 2014

By the end of the week, children across Georgia will put on their favorite costume, mask and facial make-up in celebration of Halloween. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts total Halloween spending will reach a whopping $7.5 billion, which will include costumes, decorations and the highly sought after candy treats.

Although candy is one of the most important components of an exciting night of trick-or-treating for kids, consistent consumption of sugar and unhealthy food options can have significant impacts on the oral health of kids and their families.                                                                                                                                 According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children with healthy mouths have a better chance of good general health. Additionally, maintaining healthy teeth can give children confidence in their appearance, which can impact school attendance and better attention in school.

Georgia dental hygienists are encouraging parents to practice good oral hygiene before, during and after Halloween – even if it means holding the sweets and giving out more non-traditional treats that will still excite even the scariest trick-or-treater.

“Dental hygienists give out toothbrushes for Halloween instead of candy,” said Dixianne Parker, RDH, M. Ed., fluoridation specialist and educator in DPH’s Oral Health Prevention Program. “I did it for many years and the kids who came to my door loved it! Also coupons, certificates for food, trinkets, prizes, and money are great options to give kids in place of candy.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) partner, Strong4Life, a Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta wellness movement, is providing parents the following quick and easy tips that will help them have a healthy Halloween.

  • Plan ahead: Before you know it, little ghosts and goblins will be ringing your doorbell and yelling “trick-or-treat!” Create a plan in advance and consider how you will provide healthier options such as pretzels, stickers, pencils and plastic spider rings.
  • Provide Healthy Options: Try to select candies that hold nutritional value like dark chocolate or candies with nuts. Pick the five you think are the healthiest and then let your kids choose which candies your family will give to trick-or-treaters.
  • Prep a Meal in Advance: Make sure kids get a nutritious meal before they leave home. This will decrease the temptation to snack on candies during the trick-or-treat outing.
  • Provide Expectations: Talk with your child in advance and set expectations on how many pieces of candy will be eaten Halloween night. Strong4Life recommends three to five pieces. Parents are encouraged to let their child select the candies to make it easier for compliance.
  • Plan Healthy Classroom Parties: Halloween parties are popular at schools and often become a sugar-fest filled with cupcakes, candies, soda and juice. Parents can help teachers reduce the sugar overload by bringing healthy treats to the party.

Another DPH partner, the Georgia Chapter of the Academy of Pediatrics, is promoting National Brush Day which will take place immediately after Halloween on Nov. 1. The Ad Council and the Partnership for Healthy Mouths,  Healthy Lives implemented this campaign to improve children’s oral health by supplying parents with information on when to start various levels of oral hygiene with their kids.

Just like anything in life, moderation is key when it comes to Halloween treats. With a little advance planning, buying healthier food options and purchasing creative gifts for trick-or-treaters, parents can ensure they deliver a fun, exciting and even spooky Halloween experience while maintaining proper oral health practices. 

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website for more tips and information on how to have a fun and healthy Halloween this year. 

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