Halloween can be scary, especially if you’re an orthodontist. That’s why the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) has released a series of spooky recipes that are easy on braces and taste buds, too. The AAO also has some practical advice for practitioners and patients alike on how best to take care of their teeth during the holiday festivities.
“You have to be realistic and realize that sugar is going to be part of Halloween,” said Dewayne McCamish, president elect of the AAO and a practicing orthodontist in Chattanooga, Tenn. “The purpose is to provide some healthy alternatives and some guidance. We encourage our patients to avoid the hard, the sticky, the gooey, the crunchy, and the chewy.”
The AAO’s recipes, available at https://mylifemysmile.org/recipes, are all tasty without jeopardizing any expensive and intricate dental work. They include mummy pizza biscuits, a spooky spider web bean dip, scary skull & ghastly ghost cookies, frightful finger cookies, pumpkin cookie pops, goblin goodies, graveyard shakes, Halloween parfait, spider bites, and jack-o-lantern brownies. Even the modified caramel apples are safe.
The recipes were created by Aura Kavadlo, a cooking instructor and food blogger based in St. Louis, and the AAO says that schools and families should give them a try during their Halloween parties. Of course, patients who indulge in other, more dangerous fare may subject themselves to some of the most common problems that orthodontists treat—and these problems spike during this time of year.
“Without a doubt, we see an increase in breakages, in emergency types of visits,” said McCamish. “We encourage our patients, if they have a problem, to always call. We feel it’s important to be contacted if an emergency or problem exists so there’s minimal delay in treatment.”
The number-one immediate problem orthodontists see at Halloween is broken brackets and bands. Bonds and bands that have been dislodged by shearing forces are the first issues that patients will notice. Bent wires, which are subtler than broken structures, represent the next most frequent issue. Gum irritation caused by hard objects pressed down into the tissue, which could lead to gingivitis or even a temporary periodontal abscess, is the third most common problem.
“Definitely avoid the Now and Laters, Jolly Ranchers, jellybeans, taffy, caramel, jawbreakers, and bubble gum,” McCamish said. “I tell my patients they can have popcorn. It’s the unpopped kernels that do the most damage. The problem with popcorn is that sometimes you can get the little hull. I’ve seen a lot of patients that get that hull in between the brace and the gum, creating periodontal swelling.”
Patients with orthodontic systems like Align Technology’s Invisalign need to be careful and take out their trays before snacking on some sweet treats too.
“Invisalign is made of a series of clear removable trays that are changed on a periodic basis,” McCamish said. “You put something hard in between there, and you can definitely crack those trays, and they would not be effective in moving the teeth. So, they should be taken out. They should be removed before consuming hard, sticky, gooey, and crunchy types of items.”
In the long term, tooth decay also can be an issue. Sugary foods left on the teeth turn into acidic material that demineralizes the enamel and decalcifies it. McCamish and the AAO, then, urge trick-or-treaters to brush, floss, and even use tools like the devices from Water Pik Inc. to get rid of the excess sugar after they enjoy any of these treats.
“I take my grandchildren trick or treating, and I make sure they clean thoroughly afterward, which involves brushing,” said McCamish. “Their dexterity is not quite to the point of flossing, so I floss for them. When they stay with me, they know that is going to happen.”
In fact, October is National Orthodontic Health Month, which is good news for the 4.6 million children and 1.2 million adults in the United States and Canada treated by AAO members, who are using the occasion to promote positive oral health and proper maintenance of dental appliances—despite the temptations that Halloween offers.
“I try to encourage my patients on Halloween not to have any wrecks. Let’s not have anything break. Let’s not have any wires broken,” said McCamish. “And I tell them to use common sense in what they consume.”