Halloween: A dentist's dilemma

Survey asks dentists how kids can enjoy treats and avoid oral health tricks

How do dentists confront the professional quandary that is Halloween? Delta Dental of Iowa was curious and found that approaches vary depending on the dentist.

Delta Dental’s recent Tricky Treats national survey of more than 250 dentists found that nearly one out of four dentists said they do not hand out anything on Halloween, while five percent attack the holiday head on by handing out toothbrushes.Still, 60 percent indicate that they give out candy.

“We have some professional conflict with Halloween, but dentists know that holiday snacks are a fact of life,” said Dr. Ed Schooley, DDS, dental director for Delta Dental of Iowa. “The emphasis on candy at Halloween makes it a particularly good time to also stress good oral health and how to limit the damage of sugary snacks.”

Of the dentists who hand out candy, 79 percent choose chocolate, while just 13 percent hand out varieties like hard candy or lollipops. And there’s a good reason for this confectionery choice. When it comes to teeth and sugar, it’s really a matter of time. Chocolate dissolves quickly in the mouth and can be eaten easily, which decreases the amount of time sugar stays in contact with teeth. Tooth decay occurs when candy and other sweets mix with bacteria in the sticky plaque that constantly forms on teeth to produce acid, which can wear away enamel. Chewy, sticky treats are particularly damaging because not only are they high in sugar, but they spend a prolonged amount of time stuck to teeth and are more difficult for saliva to break down. Hard candies are tough on teeth as well because kids tend to suck on them at a leisurely pace for an extended period of time.

Delta Dental of Iowa offers these additional tricks for dealing with Halloween treats:

  • Try to ensure children eat a good, healthy meal prior to trick-or-treating, so there will be less temptation to gorge on candy.
  • Promote good oral health care habits to your children year-round by encouraging twice daily brushing with fluoridated toothpaste, daily flossing and regular dental checkups.
  • Don’t buy Halloween candy too far in advance to avoid the temptation for children (and adults) to get a head start on the splurge.

“At the end of the night, it’s a good idea to remove the sticky, gummy and chewy choices from your child’s candy haul,” Dr. Schooley said. “Limit the number of treats per day and reinforce the need for good oral hygiene. Before Halloween, ask your dentist about sealants to protect the decay-prone grooves in your child’s molar teeth.”

To learn more about what dentists give out at Halloween and get their best advice for keeping kids’ teeth healthy, please visit or “like” Delta Dental of Iowa on Facebook at

About Delta Dental of IowaDelta Dental of Iowa is the largest and most experienced provider of dental benefits in the state. As a not-for-profit, Delta Dental of Iowa invests in oral health projects through the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation that focus on access to care, prevention, education and research. Delta Dental of Iowa is a member of the Delta Dental Plans Association, a national organization of not-for-profit Delta Dental member companies. The national association is the largest dental benefits carrier in the nation providing coverage to 56 million people in more than 95,700 employer groups.

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