Candy and braces make for a mouthful of trouble
Goffstown orthodontist Dr. Philip Mansour adjusts a patient's braces during a recent checkup. Mansour, noting that Halloween coincides with the end of National Orthodontic Health Month, reminds his patients that sticky sweets such as caramels and jelly beans and crunchy treats such as candy with nuts can be hazardous to those who wear braces. (KATHY REMILLARD/Union Leader Correspondent)
Figures from the National Confectioners Association indicate that Americans spent roughly $2 billion last year on Halloween candy, and all of that sugar consumption can have scary implications for oral health, particularly in the threat of tooth decay.
The damage of all of that sugar can be lessened, however.
According to the New Hampshire Dental Society, this spookily sweet (or is it sweetly spooky?) season is a perfect time to pay closer attention to oral hygiene. The society suggests several alternatives to sweets, including non-edible treats such as stickers and pencils, and healthier food items such as pretzels.
“It's really the sugar we're concerned about,” said Goffstown orthodontist Philip Mansour. “Kids are surrounded by it this time of year.”
Mansour said kids with braces have to be extra vigilant about stickier Halloween treats, which can often be damaging to wires and the brackets that hold them in place.
He sends his patients reminder emails about the do's and don'ts of Halloween candy, noting that the holiday falls during National Orthodontic Health Month.
Anything sticky is a big “no” for kids with braces, he said. They should avoid caramel, licorice, taffy, jelly beans and gum — even if it's sugarless.
Items that are especially crunchy should be avoided, as well, Mansour said. That leaves out popcorn balls and candy with peanuts or hard nut centers.
Even some healthier options can be tough on braces. Raw carrots, crunchy granola and apples are among the snacks Mansour advises his patients to avoid.
Mansour said it is possible to enjoy some traditional candies on Halloween without causing problems with orthodontics.
“Everyone really wants to have fun on this holiday, and we encourage patients to enjoy treats that are acceptable, rather than feel that they are missing out,” he said.
Mansour said some of the better choices include Hershey's chocolate bars, peanut butter cups and Nestle Crunch bars, but parents should make sure their kids brush more often when consuming such treats.
“Brush, brush, brush, and use a fluoride rinse,” Mansour said.
In the past, Mansour said, he has participated in candy buy-back programs, with candy purchased from patients and donated.
A Fremont school has taken that concept and put a health-and-wellness spin on it.
Carla Smith, the school nurse at the Ellis School, said students who bring in some of their Halloween candy will be able to trade it for a goodie bag filled with healthier options.
All of the candy collected will be donated to Operation Gratitude and sent to soldiers, she said.
Last year's program was a success, Smith said, with classes competing to see who could donate the most.
The school collected 261 pounds of candy, Smith said, and, in addition to having fun with the project, students felt good about supporting a good cause.
“You don't want to tell any child they can't trick-or-treat,” Smith said. “But keep a few treats — not the five pounds you brought home.”
This year, local businesses donated items such as stickers, apples, cheese and bottled water, as well as toothbrushes and toothpaste, which were donated by local dentists. Pirate Brands, which promotes its products as healthy snack options, donated eight cases of its Pirate's Booty.
“I have no budget for this,” Smith said, “and this just shows how generous our community is.”
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Kathy Remillard may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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