It’s that time of year! The trees change color, the sweaters get unpacked, and Americans prepare to spend $2.4 billion on candy. Sweet treats are a part of the fun of Halloween, but we also want to shield our children from the worst effects of overindulging. So what are some ways to keep children healthy but also keep the fun?

Dr. “Candy” Krause’s birthday is on Halloween, so she knows a thing or two about this spookiest of holidays. She’s helped us put together this list of ways to celebrate that will keep your children’s teeth healthy. And what did she suggest? It’s all about damage control! And, some clever psychology. Here are some tips to help you and your child to have a cavity-free Halloween!

Make the day about more than candy

Turn the focus to costume construction, crafts and decorating non-candy foods into Halloween-y shapes! One of the great joys of Halloween is pumpkin carving! Get out to Sauvie’s Island and find yourself some good pumpkins at their “U-Pick” pumpkin patch. While you’re there, enjoy their free hayrides, animal barn and corn maze!

Set a limit on how much candy they actually keep

Part of the fun of trick or treating is getting LOTS of candy. Inform your child before you go hunting that they get to pick 20 or so of their favorite pieces to keep. Letting them know before you go makes it less of a tragedy. What’s left over can be donated a to charity like Operation Shoebox.

Timing and candy choices can save teeth!

Selecting the time of day for devouring your candy can make a huge difference. The longer sugar sits on your teeth, the greater opportunity for damage-causing bacteria to set up residence in your enamel. Eating a candy bar with a meal is far better than snacking on skittles all day.

If you’re going to choose your child’s candy based on the amount of potential damage it can do, keep in mind the amount of acid in the candy. Sour candies and gummies have a pH balance similar to that of battery acid. Sticky gummies lodge themselves in between your child’s molars and linger until the next brushing. Chocolates, especially dark chocolates, are much less acidic, contain less sugar and do the least damage.

Do the “Toothfairy Trade”

The Toothfairy loves children’s teeth! She wants you to take good care of them until they’re ready to come out! And she’s ready to trade your candy for a TOY!! Have your son or daughter set a bag of candy on the front porch before going to bed. When they wake up, make sure they find a small, non-candy treat in its place.

Don’t shop when you’re hungry!

The same goes for trick or treating. Eat a healthy, protein-rich dinner before donning the costume and skipping out into the dark. This will encourage less eating on the road. Dr. Kato says he might try out this recipe for “Jack o’ Lantern Burgers” this year!

Make Halloween fancy with a new toothbrush!

This may only appeal to a certain age group, but many children would be delighted to receive a special toothbrush this Halloween. Actually, I’ll probably ask for one this year, too…

Set an example: at your own door, give out items other than candy!

Give out toys, crayons or even cash! If you must give out candy, buy it at the last minute, to avoid snacking. If you don’t mind not being the favorite house on the block, you could give away toothbrushes, mouthwash and floss. But if that sounds like it will spoil the fun, remember to buy the smallest sizes of candy to cut the sugar portions down.

Remember that it’s just one day a year

There’s almost a rite of passage, a growing up that happens from the point at which a child wants to inhale 20 Snickers bars in 10 minutes to the point where the very idea makes them feel ill. Whether they’re worried about their teeth or their waistline, being motivated to make healthy choices often comes from suffering through some poor ones.

Vote for Our Pumpkin!

Gladstone Family Dentistry is participating in a pumpkin carving contest with other dental offices around town! This masterpiece was designed by our very own Kristina Larson. How can you help us win? Follow this link and comment “this gets my vote” on our “Frozen” pumpkin!