How Dentists Handle the Halloween Dilemma

PARSIPPANY, N.J. - (Oct. 12, 2012) – How do dentists confront the professional quandary that is Halloween? A survey of dentists conducted by Delta Dental Plans Association, of which Delta Dental of New Jersey is a member, found that some dentists hand out toothbrushes, while others provide chocolate.

Delta Dental's recent Tricky Treats survey of dentists also found that nearly one out of four dentists do not hand out anything on Halloween, while five percent attack the holiday head on by handing out only toothbrushes. Still, 60 percent give out some kind of candy.

"We have some professional conflict with Halloween, but dentists know that holiday snacks are a fact of life," said Douglas B. Keck, D.M.D., M.S.H.Ed., a Connecticut-based pediatric dentist. "The emphasis on candy at Halloween makes it a particularly good time to also stress good oral hygiene and how to limit the damage of sugary snacks."

Of the dentists who hand out candy, 79 percent choose chocolate, while just 13 percent provide hard candy or lollipops. There's a good reason for this choice. 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 plaque, producing the acid that can damage enamel. Chewy, sticky treats are particularly damaging because they are high in sugar and spend prolonged time stuck to teeth. They are also 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.

"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," said New Jersey pediatric dentist Suzy Press, D.D.S., M.S. "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."

Dr. Press shares tips on how to protect your children from cavities during Halloween in this Dental Connections video.

Delta Dental offers these additional tricks for dealing with Halloween treats:
Try to ensure children eat a good meal before 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.

To learn more about what dentists give out at Halloween and get their advice for keeping kids' teeth healthy, please visit

For more information on children's dental health, view the following videos featuring Drs. Keck and Press, participating pediatric dentists with Delta Dental of New Jersey.

Dr. Keck's videos:
· A Child's First Visit To The Dentist - What You Need To Know
· How To Know If Your Child Needs Braces The Facts Might Surprise You

Dr. Press' videos:
· Tips On What You Need To Know About Your Children's Teeth
· What You Need To Know About Fluoride
· Types Of Mouthguards and Why They Are Important Safety Equipment
· Healthy Eating Habits For Back To School (either all initial caps or follow AP style)

About Delta Dental
Delta Dental of New Jersey Inc. is New Jersey's leading dental benefits company, providing or administering coverage to more than 1.5 million people through contracts with employers in New Jersey and Connecticut. The Delta Dental system offers seamless dental benefits administration for employer groups throughout the country and has the largest network of dentists in the nation. For more information, visit

About Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation
Delta Dental established the Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation in 1986. Its mission includes promoting and assisting educational projects devoted to the enhancement of dental health, providing research programs designed to increase public awareness of the general benefits of good health, and improving dental health through the science of dentistry. Each year the foundation provides financial support to various organizations throughout the state.