Witches and Ghouls – and Cavities – are Among Halloween’s Frights

Ghosts and goblins aren’t the only dangers lurking on Halloween.
Cavities and calories are also looming perils surrounding the
holiday. By taking a few precautions, however, the only Halloween
frights will be the witches and vampires knocking at the door, and
not a decayed tooth or an increased waistline.
Ghosts and goblins aren’t the only dangers lurking on Halloween. Cavities and calories are also looming perils surrounding the holiday. By taking a few precautions, however, the only Halloween frights will be the witches and vampires knocking at the door, and not a decayed tooth or an increased waistline.

To Your Health

No matter what your mother insisted, sugar doesn’t really cause hyperactivity, said Debra Potosky, a registered dietitian at Kaiser Permanente Santa Teresa Medical Center. Also, Potosky said, children would

have to eat a significant amount of candy before becoming sick.

However, collecting sacks of candy while trick-or-treating means kids are ingesting an abnormally high amount of calories. When people keep Halloween candy around beyond the holiday, Potosky said, they continue to eat significantly more calories than usual.

Dr. Michael McKeever, a Gilroy dentist who specializes in children and teenagers, agreed Halloween booty should be thrown out Nov. 1. Cavities are caused by bacteria that feed on sugar eating away at your teeth, according to the American Dental Association. But the real damage is done over time, McKeever said.

“The cavity process is a slow process,” McKeever said. “For example, with Halloween, when you dispense the candy over time, you’re keeping acid levels in the mouth high, which causes cavities.”

If two children were given a bag of candy, and one ate the contents in an hour and the other ate the contents in two days, the second child would be at a higher risk for cavities, McKeever said.

Sometimes a cavity can be repaired if it’s caught early enough, but if it’s already progressed to an advanced stage, the only options might be to undergo a root canal or have the tooth pulled, McKeever said.

One way to prevent cavities and maintain healthy teeth is to throw away leftover candy instead of keeping it around the house.

“You can’t fight Halloween,” McKeever said. “Let’s let the kids enjoy their candy, brush and floss afterwards, and then that’s the end of it.”

So, are there any oral-health-friendly Halloween options for kids? McKeever recommended prepackaged peanuts, or consider breaking tradition and handing out colorful pencils, stickers, crayons, finger puppets or other small, noncandy items.

“I usually hand out toothbrushes and floss,” McKeever said, smiling.

Trick or Treat!

Along with maintaining a healthy body, there are additional things you can do to make sure your family stays safe on Halloween.

George Ramirez, public information officer for the Hollister Police Department, offered these safety tips:

• Always walk in groups.

• Children should trick-or-treat with an adult.

• Wear a reflective costume or carry a light at night that makes you visible.

• Always have candy inspected by an adult before eating it.

• Never go into someone’s house, even if they’ve invited you in.

• Go to houses with the porch lights on where the residents are obviously participating in handing out candy.

• Never eat unwrapped candy.

• Drivers should be aware that lots of kids will be out walking.

• Parents should look for any abnormalities in the candy kids bring home.

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