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Experts issue warning over Halloween health impact

Faculty issues advice on boosting dental health

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 31 October 2016

Experts are warning that parents should take steps to minimise the damage that tonight’s Halloween trick-or-treat visits could do to their children’s health.

The Faculty of Dental Surgery, based at the Royal College of Surgeons, has issued advice on how parents can help protect their children’s teeth from the decay damage that numerous sugar treats can cause.

Official statistics show that tooth decay is the most common cause of hospital admissions for children aged 5-9 years old in England and more than 26,000 children in this age group were admitted to hospital due to tooth decay in 2014-2015.

Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the Faculty, acknowledged that celebrating Halloween by trick-or-treating had become popular in the UK in recent years and this was most often characterised by children being given lots of sweets and chocolate.

“Unfortunately, those sweet treats can be a Halloween horror for kids’ teeth. Sugar is one of the biggest culprits for nasty tooth decay,” said Professor Hunt.

“Children will be children and trick-or-treating will go ahead, so we don’t want to spoil the fun. We do however want to help parents make sensible decisions about letting their children eat sweets at Halloween and all year round.”

The guidance’s hints for protecting children’s teeth include:

  • saving any sweets that children receive at Halloween to have with a meal at home to reduce the impact on their teeth
  • limiting the number of sweets given to each child
  • consider giving out alternative treats to sweets such as stickers or balloons
  • making sure children receive non-sugary drinks while they are trick or treating
  • making sure children brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste after trick or treating.

Professor Hunt added: “It’s absolutely untenable that recent statistics show 42.1% of children did not visit an NHS dentist in the last year.

“The fact that our children’s oral health is in such a pitiful state is a national scandal. So much of it is down to education. As dentists, we need to help children and parents understand how best to look after their teeth.

“Tooth decay is 90% preventable through reducing sugar consumption, regular brushing, frequent exposure to fluoride and routine visits to the dentist."

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