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Getting a Handle on Halloween Candy

With Halloween right around the corner, it’s not just the zombies, ghosts, and vampires that parents find truly terrifying this time of year: It’s all the candy your kids will no doubt bring home from trick-or-treating and Halloween parties. So how do you control all that sugar- and which candies are the safest bet for your teeth? We asked Dr. Stephen Hill of Allen, TX to weigh in on this so-sweet-it’s-scary debate.

According to Hill, the longer sugar stays on your teeth, the worse it is for them. This means you should avoid candies that are chewy or sticky, like gummies, taffy, and even caramels. These types of candies are extra dangerous because they also have been known to damage dental work – especially orthodontics. Hard or chewy sour candies are bad, too because their high acid content is bad for tooth enamel.

The best candies, as far as your oral health goes, are candies like Smarties and Sweet Tarts- they dissolve quickly and don’t stick to teeth for very long. Other safe bets are sugar-free candies and dark chocolate, thanks to their low (or no) sugar content. Of course, these also happen to be the candies most kids want nothing to do with. So what can you do to satisfy everyone?

Hill has a few suggestions. First, he says, discuss the candy ground rules a few weeks before Halloween, and again the day of, so kids already know what to expect before they bring home all that irresistible sugar. Once they have finished trick-or-treating, try to sort through their candy and pick out a few favorites with your child. If your child absolutely loves Twix bars, for example, keep those, but see if he will be okay parting with another kind of candy that he doesn’t like quite as much. Make a deal in advance about how many pieces each child can keep.

Next, once you’ve sorted out whichever pieces of candy you can, set some ground rules for when they can eat their remaining candy. Dr. Allen suggests letting them eat one or two pieces, once a day, and then make sure they brush their teeth right after. Most schools won’t allow Halloween candy in lunch bags, therefore pick a time, like dessert or when they get home from school- and then off to brush they go.

Another suggestion by Hill? Trade it in. See if your city offers a “buy-back” program where your kids can cash in their haul for prizes. The candy is usually donated to the troops overseas or other charitable organizations. You can feel twice as good about getting rid of it. If your community doesn’t offer such a program, you can create your own reward system for each candy your child trades in. Things like 1 minute of screen time per candy or 10 cents per candy will encourage kids to give up as much as possible. You can also offer things like movie tickets, stay-up-late minutes, sporting event tickets, and even arcade tokens as sugar-free ways to sweeten the buyback deal.

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