As Halloween prepares to cast its spell across the country tonight, dental experts are hoping it does not become a fright night for oral health.
After an evening of trick or treating, children are likely to return with a bucket full of sweets and sugary goodies. Although they may prove to be too tempting for many children to resist, the British Dental Health Foundation believes parents need to be aware eating sugary foods too often could prove damaging.
While many parents might not be too keen to let their child gorge on the sugary treats for a few hours, Karen Coates, dental advisor at the Foundation, advises a balanced approach that will satisfy parents and children as well as their oral health.
Karen explained: 'It is better for children to eat sugary foods all together, rather than to spread eating them out over a few hours. Roughly one in three five-year-olds and one in three 12-year-olds suffer from tooth decay, so there is a very real need for parents to moderate their child’s sweet consumption.
'Of course we want children to enjoy themselves at Halloween. The trick is to find a middle ground. It is fine for children to have the odd sugary treat on a special occasion as long as they keep up their regular dental health routine. The key thing for parents to remember is that it is how often sugar is consumed, rather than how much sugar, which heightens the risk of tooth decay.
“Every time we eat or drink anything sugary, teeth are under attack for up to one hour. Saliva plays a major role in neutralising acid in the mouth, and it takes up to an hour for that to happen. If sweets are constantly being eaten, the mouth is constantly under attack and does not get the chance to recover. That is why one of the Foundation’s key messages is to cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks.
'Practical solutions such as keeping sweets and sugary snacks to mealtimes only throughout the following week and supervising their brushing before they go to bed are good ways to ensure your child’s oral health will not suffer long term damage. Limiting the number of houses your child visits during the night and offering other trick or treaters healthy alternatives to sweets such as fruit and sugarfree sweets are great ideas.'