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