Trick or Treat?

CandiesHalloween can be a time of fun for kids of all ages. It is a party holiday denoting the beginning of the “holiday” season. Whether it is about candy, changes in the leaves, cooler temperatures or looking for the benefits of the year end dental insurance policy, Halloween denotes a change in attitude.

What does Halloween mean to a dentist professionally? It denotes a time when parent attitudes change regarding sugar intake for their children. We have a potential national crises on hand regarding childhood obesity, and we all know the result of eating sugar damages teeth.

Sugar by itself does no damage to teeth. It is the utilization of the sugar by the bacteria that we all have on our teeth that does the damage. If there were no bacteria then there would be no tooth decay. Brushing alone leaves 2 sides of every tooth left unclean. We must add flossing or the equivalent to clean all sides of a tooth, and even then we can’t sterilize a tooth.

Research has shown us that bacteria develop a smear layer or biofilm sticky layer on the tooth and colonizes. It is this biofilm that produces the damaging results of bacteria. If we can disrupt the biofilm, then the bacteria are rendered mostly harmless. If we could eat our Halloween candy and disrupt the biofilm immediately afterwards, then there would be no tooth decay from sweets.

Another consideration concerning dental decay is the time the sugar is present on the teeth. If you drink one can of Coke a day, but sip it all day long, you have a constant bath of sugar on the teeth for a day! The same is true for candy, if you only have one or two pieces a day but dissolve it over a long period, there is much more damage than if you eat it and be done with it. I am personally not aware of any young children that floss their teeth after eating sweets.

There is sometimes an attitude that children won’t be keeping their baby teeth for very long so worrying about tooth decay isn’t a problem. I say, “nay nay”! It is that first set of baby teeth that guide the adult teeth into position, and it is that time of their lives that children develop dental cleaning habits. So the bottom line is, everything in moderation.

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