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Parents: With Halloween Candy, Focus on Choice and Time to Prevent Teeth Decay
Date:10/24/2007

SEATTLE, Oct. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- When trick-or-treaters demand, "gimme something good to eat," they're hoping for candy -- and lots of it. It's certainly part of the holiday's appeal, but also a tradition that causes concern about the effects of sugar on kids' teeth. With a few simple strategies and common sense, however, parents can help protect their kids' teeth from the onslaught of sugar.

"The amount of sugar in Halloween candy is stunning," said Dr. Ron Inge, Vice President and Dental Director for Washington Dental Service. "A recent study found the average Halloween bag contains three cups."

Dental disease is the number one chronic disease of early childhood. It can be painful, interfere with good nutrition and is a leading cause of missed school. A recent Department of Health study shows that nearly 60 percent of elementary children in Washington suffer from preventable dental decay and almost one-quarter suffer from rampant decay (cavities in seven or more teeth).

Candy choice plays an important role in reducing the negative impacts of Halloween. Hard or chewy candies, including suckers, caramels, popcorn balls and gum with sugar are often the worst offenders since they can bathe teeth in sugar for long periods of time. Some of these candies can also cause additional problems or damage for people wearing braces and other oral appliances. Better choices include small candy bars and other candies that can be consumed more quickly and easily.

Grazing on candy can also increase the exposure teeth have to sugar. Grabbing a piece every now and then from a trick-or-treat bag over the course of a few hours, for example from after-school until dinnertime, brings teeth in contact with sugar over longer, drawn-out periods of time. Munching on a few small pieces in one sitting followed by a glass of water or a thorough tooth brushing is a better option for limiting this exposure.

Oral health experts long ago identified sugar as one of the major culprits behind tooth decay and cavities. If not removed by brushing or some other means, naturally occurring bacteria in the human mouth form a colorless, sticky film called plaque. Cavity-causing organisms within plaque feed on sugar and turn it into acid. This acid attacks tooth enamel and causes tooth decay.

"With each American consuming an average of 26 pounds of candy annually, these strategies can be applied year-round. Let your kids enjoy some candy, then go back to eating a healthy diet," said Dr. Inge. "Encouraging good oral health habits throughout the year, including brushing at least twice a day, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly, will promote good oral health habits for a lifetime. That's the best way to make sure that a little extra fun on Halloween won't be a setback for your kids' oral health."

About Washington Dental Service

Washington Dental Service, a founding member of the nationwide Delta Dental Plans Association, is the state's leading dental insurance company, covering more than 2 million people nationwide through employer-sponsored dental programs. For 50 years, Washington Dental Service has been delivering high-quality, health-centered dental care. For more information, visit the Washington Dental Service website at http://www.DeltaDentalWA.com.

Contacts:

Sean Pickard

(206) 528-2304

spickard@deltadentalwa.com

or

Paul Bergman

(206) 528-7346

pbergman@deltadentalwa.com


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SOURCE Washington Dental Service
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