Well, it's over. The Halloween candy is all handed out. You've looked over the haul your children made and picked out the dangerous-looking pieces, the candy nobody likes and some for your own stash. What to do now? If you are like many parents, you are wondering how to manage that much candy. How to dish it out without contributing to your children getting dental cavities. My own children, as they grew older, had nearly 10 pounds each of confections at the end of the night. They liked to go where the houses were close together, and who could stop them? Painted faces, four good friends and the boundless energy that comes with free candy netted quite a haul at our house, times five. Five boys, 10 pounds of candy each, and you have quite a dilemma.
At our house, all the peanut butter cups were picked out for me. That hardly made a difference in the overall amount but I did the face painting and gave them each a bag! I should get something! Then we tossed all those orange & black wrapped taffies and the circus peanuts too. That still left them quite a bit of candy.
From what I know about teeth, nutrition, kids, husbands and dogs, I had to come up with a strategy. The item I was most familiar with was teeth. They don't change much. Kids get older and different daily. Husbands are just like bigger kids, and dogs will eat anything, including candy wrappers. Nutrition doesn't change much either, but caloric intake may need adjusting from time to time.
From the perspective of teeth, here are the facts. Teeth will decay in the presence of bacterial acids. The acids are produced as a bi-product of the sugar metabolism of the bacteria found in plaque. Acid levels remain elevated for about 20 minutes after ingesting sugar. So one candy bar, whether it's bite sized, mini morsel or king-sized, will induce an acid attack of about 20 minutes duration on the teeth from the time the candy is finished. This increase happens regardless if the sugar is in the form of chocolate, hard candy or gum. The most hazardous kind of candy is the kind that sticks to your teeth. You may think you finished the last gummy worm at 2 p.m., but it was stuck to your teeth until 2:15. That leaves a high acid concentration melting your enamel until 2:35.
So here is the plan: Let the kids decide. Let them feel it out. Obviously, a 3-year-old is only going to get a token amount of candy. A 7-year-old will get a lot more, and an 11-year-old more again. Ask the older kids if they'd like a piece or two in their lunch. At night after a super nutritious dinner including all the proportions in the food pyramid, have them brush teeth. Then after or during their homework, let them eat all the candy they want in an hour. Not racing style. Put it all in a bowl then let them have at it. When the timer goes off, put the bowl with the rest of the candy where the dog can't reach it and the candy freak parent won't look. Then have the children brush all their little teeth again and finish their nightly routine. Do this every day until the candy is gone, probably less than a week.
Doing it this way eliminates some major hassles and helps avoid teaching kids things that we don't want them to learn. First and foremost, they won't have to learn how to sneak candy. They won't have to lie about it, and they won't have to beg for more. Imagine yourself eating candy for a solid hour after a nutritious dinner. Will you want more after that amount of time?
The next positive aspect is that you won't have to be candy police. My mother used to hand out two pieces a day. After two or three weeks of my brother and I asking for our allotment every day, it was finally over. I believe that she tossed a bunch of it. Artificially decreasing the supply makes you the sneaky one and forces you to lie, also not a good thing. I believe that it is important for kids to learn how to handle food and treats. Weight issues are very problematic for America's children. Ask them what they feel like, physically, after they eat a lot of candy. Give them words to describe the full feeling or the crawling skin feeling.
OK, this is a dental column, not a parenting one. It's better for teeth to get the sugar bath over with as infrequently as possible. One long sugar event is better than many short ones. Plaque causes tooth decay, not sugar. Without germs on the teeth sugar doesn't matter, so brush and floss, brush and floss.
If you need a dentist who is good with children, call us at 1-866-970-0441. We'll put you in touch with a great dentist today!