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November 1, 2012

Lori Brothers on Healthy Living: If you don’t brush after sampling Halloween candy, you’re inviting dental woes

NEW CASTLE — Since you are probably reading this a day after Halloween — a most sugary time of the year — I thought it might be a good time to review the benefits of good dental hygiene.

Halloween and Easter are the two times of year when I really have to be diligent at monitoring my sugar intake. I’m a sucker for jelly beans, and those cute, “fun size” candy bars are a temptation this time of the year.

I took a personal day last week and happened to catch the new version of the Regis and Kelly Show, now called “Live with Kelly and Michael” (Strahan). They were discussing the “Top 5” Halloween candy based on an Internet poll. The poll named Hershey Kisses No. 5, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups No. 4, Kit Kat Bars No. 3, Star Bursts No. 2, and Skittles No. 1.

It’s always fun to hear this kind of thing. It’s subjective — and that’s the point. Sometimes there are some very emotional reactions. Even if you are a mindful eater, such as I am, we still can have some strong opinions about our favorite candy.

If I were ranking, I would name Gherardelli 75 percent cocoa squares as my favorite. My No. 2 would be Reese’s, and No. 3 Kit Kat Bar. However, what I eat most often, about once a week, is a small size York Peppermint Patty from the Jameson Hostess Shop. It’s the much healthier choice when I need a little sweet.

By the way, just talking about this stuff can make you crave it, so I’ll have you know that I was smart enough to have a Honey Crisp apple, which I ate, during the writing of this to curb that urge to grab a candy bar!

Now that I’ve loaded this column with sugar, let’s talk teeth. The American Dental Association would advise that we avoid excessive consumption of sugary treats. Remember that with your kids, or with yourself, when choosing to eat sugar it is important to brush teeth as soon as possible to lessen the amount of time the sugar is in the mouth.

Brushing teeth also comes with some guidelines. Dentists suggest that you invite kids to pick out their own toothpaste or gels, and their own color or design of tooth brushes. They will be more likely to brush if they get involved. Young children should have adult supervision to make sure they are brushing properly.

Halloween is actually a perfect time to get a new toothbrush. It is generally recommended that you replace your toothbrush every three to four months.

With children it is important to monitor their candy consumption and one good suggestion is that you keep the Halloween candy out of reach until a designated snack time so that you can make sure that teeth are brushed right after. This keeps the impact on the teeth minimal.

Another guideline is to remember that taffy, caramel, gummy bears and other sticky candy can adhere to teeth and can lead to tooth decay.

If you choose candy after a meal, you are less hungry and won’t tend to over indulge. Also, you may want to chew sugarless gum after eating sugary treats because it has a washing effect due to an increase in saliva production while chewing.

If you don’t have sugar-free gum, just rinsing your mouth with water has some benefit in preventing tooth decay.

Right up there with candy, dentists also warn about the danger of sugary sodas. There are more than 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce can of soda, and many are acidic enough to dissolve tooth enamel. Once again, chewing sugar-free gum or rinsing the mouth can be essential to preventing decay.

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