Halloween's popularity is getting a little bit scary. Like a monster that silently crept up behind an unsuspecting victim, the favorite holiday of ghosts and ghouls has emerged seemingly out of nowhere as one of the nation's biggest celebrations. It now trails only Christmas and the other major winter holidays in terms of participation according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). The trade association estimates that annual Halloween spending now tops $5.8 billion. More than $1.5 billion goes toward the purchase candy according to a survey by BIGresearch®. That's enough to buy every man, woman and child in the United States 50 snack-size candy bars. Not surprisingly, all that candy is putting an unprecedented number of teeth at risk for Halloween cavities and other dental problems.
Grown-Ups Fall Prey to Trick-or-Treat Tooth Decay, Too
Concern over Halloween-related tooth decay has traditionally focused on protecting children. That may be shortsighted in light of the holiday's immense popularity. NRF data shows that approximately 70 percent of 18 to 24 year old Gen Y'ers plan on dressing up in costumes. That's the highest rate of holiday participation of any demographic. With so much candy being distributed and consumed, people in virtually every age group may be at risk for Halloween cavities -- from little kids and their parents to college students and 20-somethings to the good neighbors who buy sweets for trick-or-treaters.
10 Tricks for Scaring Away Halloween Cavities
Fortunately, having fun on Halloween doesn't mean you can't enjoy holiday sweets. Moderation and intelligent choices are as effective as garlic is against vampires when it comes to protecting you from tooth decay. Here are a few favorite tricks for keeping Halloween cavities at bay:
2. Seal the deal. Get dental sealants during your next visit to the dentist. Sealants are highly effective at protecting hard-to-brush molars from the damaging effects of sugars and acids.
3. Buy candy you don't like. Too much candy and too few trick-or-treaters have led many people to consume entire bags of their favorite Halloween goodies. The solution: buy candy you don't care for so you won't be tempted to finish it on your own.
4. Go sugar-free. The best Halloween sweets for teeth are xylitol sugar-free candies and chewing gums. Xylitol, a natural non-fermentable sugar alcohol, not only fights the bacteria related to gum disease, it also helps tooth enamel crystals to re-mineralize.
5. Avoid hard candy. You can't win with hard candy. Bite into a piece the wrong way and you wind up with a cracked tooth or broken dental crown. Suck on a piece of hard candy too long and your teeth will be overexposed to the sugars that dental plaque thrives on.
6. Choose chocolate. A perennial favorite, chocolate is a good choice because it melts quickly which limits your mouth's exposure to harmful sugars. There's more good news. Studies by the University of Osaka show that cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, may actually help reduce gum inflammation.
7. Don't nibble. It's actually better to enjoy 3 or 4 pieces of candy in one sitting than to eat the same number of treats over several hours. This is because nibbling greatly extends the length of time your mouth is exposed to harmful acids.
8. Take it to work. One way to avoid weeks of nibbling away at your child's haul of Halloween treats is to take it to work after he or she has enjoyed a reasonable amount. It's amazing how fast candy disappears when it's left on the "freebie" table in the company lunchroom.
10. Good oral hygiene rules! The basics -- brushing, flossing and rinsing with fluoride mouthwash -- right after eating candy will help prevent post-Halloween cavities. In a pinch, rinsing your mouth out with water washes away the sugars and acids from candy that lead to tooth erosion.
Protect Yourself From Halloween Cavities
Don't fall victim to trick-or-treat tooth decay. Scheduling a dental checkup and cleaning in November can be a "silver bullet" when it comes to preventing Halloween cavities. Terrified by the thought of looking for a new dentist?