Health & Safety

October 25, 2013

Halloween: A cavity trick or sugary treat

The 99th Dental Squadron is encouraging Airmen and their family members to develop an oral hygiene plan when eating candy during Halloween in order to prevent cavities. For cavities to form, four specific factors must be present concurrently: a susceptible tooth surface, cavity-forming bacteria, sugar and time.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Halloween is fast approaching. Soon the ghouls, ghosts and zombies from Las Vegas will be wandering the streets and knocking on doors in search of treats.

However, while these little monsters are anticipating eating their chocolate cover apples, the 99th Dental Squadron staff encourages parents to plan for the possibility of candy coated cavities.

Halloween has quickly become known for the consumption of candy than it is for children dressing up as their favorite cartoons.

Every year, stores pile candy into their specialty isles trying to encourage the purchase of more and more sugary treats to meet the demands of their consumers. According to the National Confectioners Association, during the month of October, Americans spend more than $2 billion on candy.

“It’s easy to overlook what large amounts of sugar can do to your teeth,” said Tech Sgt. Breeanna Thompson, 99th DS chief of preventive dentistry. “We encourage all Airmen and their families to think about their oral hygiene while consuming all the treats they get on Halloween.”

The sugar from the candy treats plays a major factor in the formation of cavities by weakening the teeth’s enamel. Enamel is the outer layer of the tooth that protects the crown. For cavities to form, four specific factors must be present concurrently: a susceptible tooth surface, cavity-forming bacteria, sugar and time.

In other words, cavities are most likely to form within 72 hours of eating or drinking a sugary substance. During this time, certain bacteria in a person’s mouth will use the sugar to produce acid, which aggravates the tooth enamel.

“Brushing and rinsing with water helps to get rid the mouth of the bacteria that causes cavities,” Thomson said. “Good oral hygiene is a must with the consumption of large amounts of sugar. Brushing twice a day goes a long way.”

The 99th DS staff encourages parents to enact good oral hygiene practices, in order to prevent the consumed sugar from damaging their children’s teeth. By brushing, flossing and rinsing with fluoride or water immediately after eating candy, children significantly reduce the risk of cavities and tooth erosion.

Thompson also suggest setting a limit on how much candy is consumed in one sitting and avoiding hard candy as much as possible to prevent potential damage to children’s teeth.

“Moderation is the key,” Thompson said. “If you are going to give children candy, try to limit it to a few times a day, and make sure it’s not easily accessible for them to snack on.”

When deciding on an oral hygiene plan for their children, parents are also encouraged to develop one for themselves as well. According to the American Dental Association, one out of seven adults get at least one cavity a year.

Annual dental examinations are an important preventative measure against cavities as well. Airmen from the dental squadron encourage an annual teeth cleaning and dental examination at a dental clinic. There, dentists can identify possible cavities, areas of oral hygiene weakness and suggest treatment options.

While ghouls and goblins may roam Nellis AFB once a year, the long lasting effects of the sugary treats can also be a trick for getting cavities.

For more information, call the 99th DS at (702) 653-2600.




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