4 Ways to Scare Away Cavities This Halloween

When I was just three years old, I discovered the joy of Halloween. After tentatively approaching a couple of doors with my parents, I suddenly realized what was happening: people were giving me candy!

I soon began to run with my little toddler legs, gasping out, “Huwwy! Huwwy!” I was not going to let these free treats pass me by, and my parents were not going to slow me down.

Halloween can be a lot of fun for kids as they get to dress up, go to parties, and eat treats. Unfortunately, that abundance of Halloween candy can cause problems — especially for your children’s teeth.  

At Halloween or any time of the year, it’s important to help your kids develop good dental hygiene habits so they can keep those cavities away. In honor of National Dental Hygiene Month, we want to share the Daily 4 of dental hygiene to help you and your kids have healthy teeth.

1. Brush twice a day

The American Dental Association recommends that you brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day to keep your mouth healthy and clean (1). Using a soft-bristled brush and ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste will make your brushing even more effective.

Until you know your kids can handle brushing teeth on their own, the ADA recommends that you help them brush (2). They’ll probably need help using the right amount of toothpaste too (for ages 0-3, the size of a grain of rice, and for ages 3-6, the size of a pea) (3).

Kids may not always be excited about brushing their teeth. And I don’t blame them; for a kid, two minutes can seem like eternity! Whether it’s having a dance party or watching a Sesame Street video about teeth brushing (4), you can help your kids learn to love brushing their teeth. As you help your kids practice brushing and find ways to make it fun (5), they’ll develop good habits that can help them (and their teeth) for years to come.

2. Floss daily

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, flossing is “an important oral hygiene practice” (6). Cleaning between your teeth can get rid of plaque and “may help prevent cavities and gum disease” (7). As soon as your kids have teeth that touch, it’s important to help them not only brush, but also floss once a day.

I have to admit, flossing has been a pretty tricky habit for me to keep. For me, it took buying little individual flossers to help me floss daily. Whether you use dental floss, a dental pick, a water flosser, or some other ADA-approved interdental cleaner, find something that works for you. As you take time to clean between those teeth, your example will help your kids learn the importance of flossing too!

3. Rinse with mouthwash

As kids are learning to brush and floss, it can be really hard to get all those tiny cracks and crevices clean. Thankfully, mouthwash can help! (However, make sure that your kids are old enough to use it. The ADA recommends waiting until kids are at least 6 so they don’t accidentally swallow too much mouthwash.)(8)

Because mouthwash can get in those hard-to-reach areas, rinsing with mouthwash daily can help with plaque, tooth decay, gingivitis, and bad breath (9). In choosing a mouthwash, look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance to make sure that it’s both effective and safe. That way your mouthwash rinse can do its job!

Adding mouthwash to your daily dental hygiene routine may help you and your kids have a healthier mouth. So don’t forget this important step of your Daily 4!

4. Chew sugar-free gum

The final part of your Daily 4 is chewing sugar-free gum. According to the ADA, studies show that “chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay” (10). (And I’m going to guess that your kids will be a lot more excited about chewing gum than they are about brushing or flossing. This step is the easy one!)

While you definitely shouldn’t chew gum instead of brushing your teeth, chewing gum after meals can get the saliva going to naturally clean out your mouth. As with other dental hygiene products, you can look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance to make sure that the gum is sugar-free and will help your mouth be healthy.

Goodbye Cavities

As you help your kids practice the Daily 4 of dental hygiene, you can say goodbye to cavities and hello to that healthy mouth! While it’s important to limit foods like candy that can harm your dental health (11), those habits can help your kids enjoy some Halloween fun while still having a healthy and happy mouth. Practice the Daily 4 today, and help your kids practice too!

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*Pictures retrieved from https://vimeo.com/121193519, https://pixabay.com/en/pumpkin-halloween-jack-o-lantern-2504236/ and http://www.adha.org/resources-docs/2017_daily4_poster.pdf

References

1. American Dental Association. (n.d.). Brushing your teeth. Retrieved from http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/brushing-your-teeth

2-3. American Dental Association. (n.d.). Healthy habits. Retrieved from http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/healthy-habits

4. Sesame Street. (2009, May 21). Sesame Street: Kids just love to brush [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QMogM6TRIQ

5. American Dental Association. (n.d.). 7 ways to make brushing fun for kids. Retrieved from http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/fun-ways-to-encourage-kids-to-brush

6. Manchir, M. (2016, August 2). Government, ADA recognize importance of flossing. Retrieved from http://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2016-archive/august/association-responds-to-news-story-challenging-benefits-of-dental-floss-use?nav=news

7. American Dental Association. (n.d.). Flossing. Retrieved from http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/flossing

8-9. American Dental Association. (n.d.). Mouthwash. Retrieved from http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/m/mouthwash

10. American Dental Association. (n.d.). Chewing gum. Retrieved from http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/c/chewing-gum

11. American Dental Association. (n.d.). Nutrition: What you eat affects your teeth. Retrieved from http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/nutrition/food-tips

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