A Pediatric Dentist’s Tooth-Healthy Guide To Halloween Candies


As a pediatric dentist, I know it is nearly impossible to avoid Halloween candy altogether. But there are some simple ways you can minimize the sugar overload and help your children make more tooth-friendly choices.

Use Halloween as a teaching moment to help your child learn about moderation and dental care. Follow these tips and Halloween won’t have to be scary for your child’s dental health.

After indulging in Halloween treats, be sure to have your child both brush and floss, since candy can easily get stuck between teeth. 

Always make a safety check of your child’s haul, and help your child make tooth-healthy choices to keep. Consider sending the rest of the candy to “The Halloween Fairy.” Leave the scary smile to the Jack-O-Lantern. 

Good Treats

  • Dark chocolates are better for the teeth because they are less likely to get stuck in the grooves and crevices of the teeth.

    • Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that can stop bacteria from sticking to teeth, helping to fight gum infections and tooth decay.

    • Dark chocolate also has less sugar than milk chocolate.

  • Microwave popcorn and cheese sticks.

  • Sugar-free gum - when chewed, produces saliva, which helps neutralize the acid in the mouth. Make sure your child can be trusted chewing gum.

  • Pretzels

  • Non-candy options like stickers, pencils and small trinkets like temporary tattoos and glow-sticks are great alternatives to candy.

Bad Tricks

  • Sticky treats leave sugar directly on the teeth for prolonged periods. The stickier the candy, the worse it is for dental health. Some are sticky and strong enough to pull out a filling, bridge, or braces. These include:

    • Gummies

    • Caramel

    • Tootsie Rolls and Pops

    • Taffy

    • Bubble gum

    • fruit leather and even dried fruit 

  • Sour candies (especially if they are sticky and coated in sugar) are high in acidity, which erodes tooth enamel. 

  • Hard candies can damage teeth and are a choking hazard for young children.

If your child has allergies, here are some resources to help you plan a safe Halloween. 


How To Help Your Child Adjust Their Sleep Schedule for School

In the summer, children and teen’s bedtimes tend to become more lax. Now, as school has started, it’s important to establish bedtimes and bedtime routines to ensure that your children get the rest they need to do their best in school.

Here are five tips to help children establish a back-to-school sleep routine:

  • A bath or shower, followed by a story helps grade school children and younger to relax into sleep.

  • Make sure your child flosses and brushes their teeth before bed. See my tips on toothbrush choices here.

  • For older children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all screens be turned off at least one hour before bedtime so teens have time to wind down. 

  • If school bedtime is much different from summer bedtime, gradually shift bedtime, putting your kids to bed 15 minutes earlier each night..

Why Sleep Matters

Researchers have found that kids need much more sleep than adults to support their growth and development. Pre-schoolers should get 10 to 13 hours of sleep a day, grade-schoolers should get nine to 12 hours and teens should sleep eight to 10 hours, according to a 2017 study published in 2017 in Academic Pediatrics. This may not appear realistic, but it is a guideline. Try sleeping on it. 

Kids who don’t get enough sleep — even an hour or so less than recommended — may have trouble paying attention, sitting still or keeping their emotions in check at school, sleep psychologist Lisa J. Meltzer, an associate professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health in Denver, told USA Today. 



It's Back to School Dental Checkup Time!

Make sure your child’s smile makes the grade!

Back to school is just around the corner and getting your child ready is always a mad dash. While you’re planning, be sure to make an appointment with your pediatric dentist for a dental checkup. 

There are several good reasons to schedule your child’s dental checkup before the first day of school.

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  1. New York City requires a dental checkup as part of a complete physical exam for every child starting school or daycare for the first time.

  2. A checkup can detect hidden problems. Nearly one in five school-age children has untreated tooth decay. A checkup can detect a small problem before it progresses to the point where it can interfere with eating, speaking, sleeping and learning.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42% of children ages two to 11 have had cavities in baby teeth; 21% of  those ages six to 11 have had cavities in permanent teeth.

  3. Your child’s mouth and jaw may have changed considerably as a result of the many growth spurts that take place over the summer.

  4. Did you know that a correlation between oral infections and diabetes, asthma, heart disease and obesity has been identified? 

  5. Dental problems can impede your child’s learning. According to a study in The American Journal of Public Health, children with poorer oral health status were more likely to experience dental pain, miss school, and perform poorly in school. These findings suggest that improving children's oral health status may be a vehicle to enhancing their educational experience.

  6. Get children’s oral health habits back on track. Children tend to slack off with their oral hygiene routine during the summer. A checkup can help them get back to good oral care habits that lead to a healthy smile.

  7. Your child can be fitted for a mouthguard at the checkup. I consider wearing a mouthguard mandatory in contact and collision sports like football, lacrosse, boxing, wrestling, basketball, hockey, and soccer. 

    A mouthguard can also prevent injury in non-contact sports, such as bicycling, skating, skateboarding and gymnastics. Hits to the face in those sports may be accidental, but they are just as damaging. 

    Without a mouthguard, common injuries include chipped or broken teeth, root damage, fractured crowns or loss of an entire tooth or teeth, lip and cheek injuries, fractured jaws, and concussions. Prevention is the key!

    Without a mouthguard, common injuries include chipped or broken teeth, root damage, fractured crowns or loss of an entire tooth or teeth, lip and cheek injuries, fractured jaws, and concussions. Prevention is the key!