31 Oct 2019

Scary movies, ghost walks, silly costumes, the paranormal  - just a few of the things that we associate with Halloween. Typically for children, Halloween is about dressing up and knocking on our front doors asking us to fill their buckets with chocolate, sweets and snacks. But while the night may be fun and enjoyable for all, it could turn out to be a particularly ghastly one for teeth.

Letting children enjoy themselves but finding a compromise could benefit your child's oral health in the short and long term. And remember, it's not just children this applies to. After all, how many parents out there are dipping into their children's sweets after sending them to bed?

Halloween is now the third largest shopping season after Christmas and Easter, with UK shoppers estimated to spend around £474 million this year. Shopping aisles are stocked wall to wall with costumes and pumpkins, but we believe the real horror lies in the treats.

According to the Oral Health Foundation, what is a great night for children could be a ghastly one for their teeth. Given that a quarter of five year olds in England have tooth decay, the charity urges parents and children to find a compromise that will not leave their oral health in a ghastly state.

After one 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 Oral Health Foundation believes parents need to be aware that eating sugary foods too often could prove damaging.

Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, says: “It is better for children to eat sugary foods all together, rather than to spread eating them out over a few hours. Of course we want children to enjoy themselves at Halloween, but there is a very real need for parents to moderate their child’s sweet consumption.

“The trick is to find a middle ground. If you want to give your child the odd sugary treat it is best kept for mealtimes and they need to keep up their regular dental health routine.

“Every time we eat or drink anything sugary, our teeth come under an acid attack for up to one hour. Saliva plays a major role in neutralising the acid in the mouth, although it takes up to an hour for the acidity levels in the mouth to be neutralised. If sweets are constantly being eaten, your teeth and mouth are constantly under attack and do not get the chance to recover. That is why one of the our key messages is to cut down on how much and how often you have sugary foods and drinks.”

Here our top five tips for tooth-friendly trick or treating:

  • Keep sweets to mealtimes only to reduce the amount of time teeth are exposed to them.
  • Limit the number of houses you visit as this will help cut down how many sweets are collected.
  • Make sure your child does not eat sweets one hour or less before bedtime, as they could risk brushing off enamel from their teeth which has been weakened by an acid attack.
  • Supervise brushing their teeth with a fluoride toothpaste before they go to bed. Brushing last thing at night is important as the mouth produces less saliva overnight.
  • Offer sugar-free treats such as cheese, nuts or breadsticks as they are healthy alternative and do not cause tooth decay.

For more information about how to help children maintain good oral health check out our children’s oral health page.