The trick is in the treat say Australia's dentists

29 October 2020

Covid social distancing restrictions don’t have to kill off Halloween this year – just be smart about the way you do it and how your family wolfs down those sugary treats.

Australians taking part in ‘trick or treat’ this Halloween should eat sweets in single sittings rather than repeatedly returning to the pantry throughout the day to grab more, say the nation’s dentists, as grazing on sweet treats is one of the worst habits for teeth.

"Most people won’t know this, but it’s better to consume sweets over a shorter period, than to repeatedly expose your teeth to them over a prolonged period of time," says Canberra dentist and Australian Dental Association (ADA) President Dr Carmelo Bonanno.

"This is because every assault of sugar that goes into your mouth feeds bacteria which create acid that dissolve the tooth enamel, exposing the mouth to decay. Doing this repeatedly throughout the day, over a few days or in the week after Halloween, is cumulative.

"Smart alternatives to sweet treats are a great option for young mouths, like little games, toys or sports gear," suggested Dr Bonanno.

Look to the ADA’s swag of tooth tips below to slash your decay risk this Halloween:

- eat your sweet treats at mealtime: the saliva produced to help digest larger quantities of  food can also cleanse and buffer mouth pH from acids caused by food and drink; 

- chocolate wins over candy: dark chocolate has much lower sugar quantities than other chocolates and lollies; 

- rinse your mouth with water: after eating anything sugary to rinse foods and drinks from the mouth;

- consume your Halloween party soft drink with a straw: that way the liquid goes straight to the back of the throat, bypassing teeth; 

- when shopping for treats: go for treats that aren’t sticky and don’t sit in clumps in back molar teeth - sticky sweets are more difficult to remove and linger longer, increasing tooth decay risk, and;

- brush teeth twice a day and floss daily: whatever the date!

- keep your little demons happy with the ADA’s new recipe book Tooth-friendly Treats which is packed with delicious low-sugar recipes from our dentists. Available in ebook or print.

To make sure your family has a covid-safe Halloween, there are a number of other ways to have a fun time this year without the added concern of becoming a pandemic statistic.

While there are no official guidelines from the Commonwealth Department of Health, NSW Health has put out these guidelines to help families have a scarey but safe time:

✓ Halloween should be a front-yard event, not a front-door event (keep it outdoors);

✓ Provide closed packaging for treats and instead of communal bowls, consider other ways of distributing treats like strewn along the front fence;

✓ Have hand sanitiser at the front gate;

✓ Trick or treat on a household basis (e.g. a supervising adult and children from the same household), rather than groups of young people together, with a maximum of 30 people gathering outside;

✓ Maintain 1.5 metre distance between people of different households – don’t all crowd together in a pack;

✓ Don’t share costume face masks;

✓ Stay home if sick;

✓ People isolating should not receive Halloween visitors;

✓ Practice good hand hygiene and use hand sanitiser after touching common surfaces;

✓ Know the local restrictions in your state and work to those.
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