Halloween – beware of hidden sugars

 

Sir, – Halloween is just around the corner. Last year children were unable to go door to door trick or treating because of Covid-19 restrictions. This year they can, and parents of young children are once again enthusiastically planning creative costumes and masks to wear and festive games to play for the evening, while older children perhaps compete with pals on who will get the bigger sweet stash on the night!

With so many more sweet options available today, parents face additional challenges when selecting sweet treats to give away at the door, accept into their household or just how to gently limit the consumption amid the excitement and distractions of the day. Coupled with energy highs and lows of too much sugar on the night, there’s the added worry of tooth decay.

Sugar alone does not cause cavities. Science tells us that sugar along with plaque already present in your mouth create the conditions that enable cavities to form. Our mouths are full of good and bad bacteria. Good bacteria are important for an overall healthy mouth. Harmful bacteria, on the other hand, living in plaque (the sticky film on your teeth) feed off the sugar we consume, creating acid which in turn can erode tooth enamel, thus causing cavities.

The World Health Organisation recommends that for both oral and general health, adults and children should limit sugar to six teaspoons per day – including hidden sugar that may be in processed foods.

For example, a regular can of cola has 10.6g of sugar per 100ml, so a 330ml can contains about 35g which is circa nine teaspoons of sugar!

Chocolate is the best sweet option because it dissipates quickly with saliva and doesn’t linger too long in the mouth. Why not try alternatives such as home-made biscuits in spooky shapes, fruits disguised as ghosties, or pretzels for spider leg decorations, or popcorn? There are many alternatives that have little or no sugar and are nut or allergen free.

The Dental Health Foundation advises that while having fun on the night, and indeed through the mid-term break – try eating sweets around mealtimes, avoid harmful snacking and drink water to wash away sugar afterwards.

Or better still, come up with a host of games and spooky activities to play together throughout the evening. The memory will last longer than the sweet! – Yours, etc,

ORLAITH KENNEDY,

Chief Executive,

Dental Health

Foundation Ireland,

Dublin 2.