Halloween approaches, and we all know what that means: a tsunami of Halloween candy. I love Halloween in North Las Vegas, but as a dentist, I see the direct consequences of the massive sugar consumption.
To get an idea of just how much candy we consume this time of year, let’s take a look at the numbers.
Why do I care? Because all that candy can have a massive impact, particularly on children.
Don’t Become a Victim of Halloween
The average kid that goes trick-or-treating can consume 7,000 calories from candy on Halloween. That comes out to about 675 grams of sugar, or about three cups. But it’s not just Halloween that I’m worried about. A day or two of binging might be something you can recover from, but general consumption of sugar is a massive problem as well.
The CDC estimates that the average child (ages 2–19) consumes 124 grams of sugar on a daily basis. Teenagers are the worst offenders, averaging 161 grams per day. It comes from processed foods, sugary drinks, and sodas.
‘But Dr. Soard, how much should they be having?’
The American Heart Association recommends that children consume fewer than 25 grams of added sugar daily.
While adults are responsible for themselves, children need a little more guidance. Young children, especially, need some extra help. Dentists have seen some disturbing trends as younger and younger children are getting more and more cavities.
40 percent of children ages 2–11 have had tooth decay in their primary teeth.
30 percent of children ages 2–5 currently have tooth decay.
20 percent of children ages 5–11 have at least one untreated, decaying tooth.
Tips for Preventing Cavities
My advice for cavity prevention applies to both parents and their children. Help them form healthy habits at a young age so that they won’t have to do damage control as adults.
Switch to Water
The name of the game in tooth decay is prevention. Switching from juice, milk, and especially soda and drinking mostly water is tremendously helpful. The damaging aspect of sugar (as far as your teeth go) comes from time.
The longer sugar is able to hang out in your teeth, the more it can react with bacteria in the mouth to produce enamel-destroying acids. If you’re drinking sugary beverages all day, that sugar has all day to work on teeth.
Ration Sugary Sweets, or Switch to Healthy Ones
On a day-to-day basis, avoid sugary snacks between meals. They’ll add some unwanted pounds in addition to damaging teeth.
But what do you do with your child’s Halloween horde? There are a few strategies, including rationing it out a piece at a time. I recommend candy buybacks to allow them to trade their candy for cash. Alternatively, donate it to the troops, nursing homes, or charity organizations directly.
Brush Twice per Day, for Two Minutes Each Time
Brushing should begin at whatever age the first tooth appears, and then never stop. We always follow the “2 x 2 rule”—brush twice per day, for two minutes each time. Combined with fluoride toothpaste, effective brushing should be the foundation of your morning and evening routines.
Also, you don’t have to floss all of your teeth…just the ones you’d like to keep.
Don’t Let Your Family Fall Prey to Tooth Decay
Halloween in North Las Vegas doesn’t have to be a sugar buzzkill. Instead of making it all about the candy, focus on fun games and activities that bring people together.
If you have questions about your child’s particular case, please contact our office and we will be happy to help you out.
~Dr. Zachary Soard