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It’s trick or treat time again and every kid wants a sugary treat. We all know candy overload can be spooky to a child’s teeth, but have no fear — follow these simple Halloween teeth tips to keep your little goblin’s grin healthy.

Sort through the candy!

The second the candy crosses the threshold to your house, sum up the contents of the goody bag. If your child went trick or treating with another child, there’s a good chance some candy has already been consumed. In addition to checking candy for tampering, use your own parental guidelines to determine if your child simply has too much candy. If so, talk to your child about the pitfalls of too much sugar. You might consider “buying” candy from your child at 5 cents per piece.

Toss out the candy that hurts teeth the most.

Hard candy and sticky candies (such as gummy candy and taffy) are pretty stubborn when it comes to teeth. The sugar from these candies stays on your teeth longer. Hard candy also stays in your child’s mouth longer, leaving teeth vulnerable for prolonged exposure to sugar. There is another thing to consider — a single piece of hard candy can easily crack a tooth. Throw these candies out — they aren’t good for anyone.

Care to share?

Speaking of sharing, Operation Gratitude is a program that collects excess Halloween candy and sends it to U.S. military personnel directly in harm’s way. These service men and women don’t have easy access to simple pleasures and are very appreciative of candy donations. Sharing with military personnel who don’t have access to an occasional sweet treat sends a great message to your child. Have your child help you box up the extra candy, slip in a personal note, and send the candy to:

Operation Gratitude/California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Attn: Rich Hernandez
Operation Shoebox
8360 E Highway 25
Belleview, FL 34420

Operation Gratitude is unable to pay for postage, but know that your postage and shipping box is also a contribution.

Mark your calendar.

Most Halloween candies come in small “fun size” packages. With 10 fun size packages for 5 nights in a row leaving sugar on the teeth, your child may develop a not so fun cavity. Take a box of snack size zip baggies and separate the candies into as many bags as necessary, limiting each bag to a few pieces of small candy or one large candy per day. With a black marker, write the day of the week on each baggie. Have your child eat their treat with or immediately after a meal (saliva produced while eating a meal helps rinse away sugar). Tip: You may also want to mark each baggie with the number of candies inside to detect any “sneaky snacking.”

Brush and floss!

Always have your child brush and floss as soon as they are done eating sugary candy. Parents? We know how tempting it is to grab a handful of candy from your child’s stash, so make sure you also brush and floss! Have your child rinse with mouthwash especially made for kids, which usually contains fluoride. Fluoride adds a little protection to the teeth and helps prevent cavities.

Have a happy and healthy Halloween!