There’s no escaping a candy overload at Halloween, but there are ways to ensure children’s teeth make it through the holiday unscathed, according to a leading pediatric dental expert at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine.
Dr. Deborah Studen-Pavlovich, chair of Pediatric Dentistry at Pitt’s School of Dental Medicine, has more than 30 years of experience treating Pittsburgh’s youth. Known to her patients as Dr. Deb, she offers healthy teeth tips for parents to consider:
- Parents should approve candy before it is consumed. Allow Halloween to be a candy “free-for-all,” then limit access and amounts in the days that follow. Avoid sticky candy, like taffy and gummy bears, and extremely sour candy. Sticky candies adhere to teeth and hide in the crevices between, while sour candies are laced with citric acid, the most erosive dietary acid. Acid causes the pH of the mouth to plunge to levels that demineralize teeth enamel.
- Offer a sugarless gum to older children to chew, especially one containing xylitol. Chewing increases saliva flow and helps wash sugar off of teeth, and sugar substitute xylitol helps control bacteria in the mouth.
- Avoid acidic drinks that are juice-based and sports drinks. The pH of these drinks ranges from 3.3-3.4. Food and drink with a pH level below can erode enamel. Beyond enamel, there is no protective layer available to rebuild and remineralize the protective surface of teeth.
- Drink several glasses of water of milk after eating candy to flush away sugars and neutralize saliva. Fluoridated water helps the process of remineralization. Those without fluoride in water can use an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste.
- Clean teeth as soon as possible after eating candy. Encourage children to be especially diligent in their brushing habits during this time. Proper brushing takes 120 seconds. The mouth is the most vulnerable to bacterial activity because it is oftentimes closed during the long hours of sleep. Over 600 species of microorganisms may lurk in the crevices of the mouth and teeth. According to Dr. Deb, frequent and conscientious brushing can help to eradicate many of these species.
About the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine
Established in 1896 as an independent institution named the Pittsburgh Dental College, the School of Dental Medicine was incorporated into the University of Pittsburgh in 1905. The school offers a four-year Predoctoral Program leading to a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree, an International and Advanced Standing Program for graduates of foreign dental schools, and post-graduate residency programs in 10 disciplines. The school of Dental Medicine offers the only dental hygiene certificate program in Pennsylvania affiliated with a major university, in addition to a dental hygiene baccalaureate degree program. The School of Dental Medicine’s comprehensive clinical offerings include the new Multidisciplinary Implant Center and the Center for Patients with Special Needs, one of the few centers in the U.S. dedicated to training future dentists to care for patients with disabilities. Recognized for excellence in research, the School of Dental medicine ranked 6th in National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research funding for fiscal year 2011. For more information about the school of Dental Medicine, visit www.dental.pitt.edu.