Although children might think Halloween is the best holiday of the year, to some orthodontists it's a cavity nightmare.
Dr. Barbara Utermark, an orthodontist and pediatric dentist, cleans Allexis Platt's teeth. Utermark stresses that children should avoid hard and sticky candies, high in sugar, which can cause tooth decay.
Photo by Quandra Collins
"Halloween is traditionally one of the worst times of the year for an orthodontist because of the hard candies and so forth," said Dr. Gene Williamson, an Evans orthodontist who said he hangs posters in his office to encourage children to take proper care of their teeth. "We have posters that show broken braces from eating hard candies, which can prolong (a patient's) treatment. We encourage kids to watch what they eat a month or so before Halloween."
Candy, orthodontists say, can cause extensive damage to the teeth of those with braces. Because October is National Orthodontic Health Month, several orthodontists say they use creative tactics to persuade children to stay away from candy that is hard, sticky or chewy.
Dr. Barbara Utermark, a Martinez orthodontist and pediatric dentist, said she has her patients enter a coloring contest in which the winner wins a $50 gift certificate to Toys 'R' Us. The contest, she said, is a picture of a pumpkin with braces, showing two mice flossing the pumpkin's teeth.
"Halloween is a big month for me," she said, stressing that parents should limit the amount of candy their children eat.
"The day after Halloween, parents need to dispense and control the candy their child eats. Parents need to dispense it with a treat at lunch or dinner," she said, adding that the children should brush their teeth after the meal.
Dr. John W. Spratling, a pediatric dentist at Pediatric Dental Specialists in Martinez, agreed, saying that eating a treat during mealtime clears sugar from the mouth.
"We encourage (children), especially around Halloween, if they are going to go trick-or-treating to try sugarless treats," he said. "We advise parents to help their child stay away from candy that is sticky, that can pull off crowns, fillings or appliances in the mouth."
Although Spratling hasn't adopted a specific program to limit the amount of candy children consume, he said, his office has a dental report card that monitors the child's condition.
"We have a certificate that we give (each child on their first visit)," he said. "It's kind of a congratulatory gift certificate that encourages them to keep coming back to the dentist."
Dental health tips:
Ask your pediatric dentist to help you assess your child's diet.
Do not routinely stock your pantry with sugary or starchy snacks. Buy "fun foods" only for special times.
Limit snack times; choose nutritious snacks.
Provide a balanced diet, and save foods with sugar or starch for mealtimes.
For more information, visit www.braces.org.
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