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Halloween: A Dentist's Dilemma

Delta Dental Survey Asks Dentists How Kids Can Enjoy Treats and Still Avoid Oral Health Tricks


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OAK BROOK, Ill. (Oct. 31, 2012) - How do dentists confront the professional quandary that is Halloween? Delta Dental was curious and found that approaches vary depending on the dentist.

Delta Dental's recent Tricky Treats survey of more than 250 dentists found that nearly one out of four dentists said they do not hand out anything on Halloween, while five percent attack the holiday head on by handing out toothbrushes.1 Still, 60 percent indicate that they give out candy.

"We have some professional conflict with Halloween, but dentists know that holiday snacks are a fact of life," said Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, Delta Dental's vice president for dental science and policy. "The emphasis on candy at Halloween makes it a particularly good time to also stress good oral health and how to limit the damage of sugary snacks."

Of the dentists who hand out candy, 79 percent choose chocolate, while just 13 percent hand out varieties like hard candy or lollipops. And there's a good reason for this confectionery choice. When it comes to teeth and sugar, it's really a matter of time. 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 the sticky plaque that constantly forms on teeth to produce acid, which can wear away enamel. Chewy, sticky treats are particularly damaging because not only are they high in sugar, but they spend a prolonged amount of time stuck to teeth and are 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 for an extended period of time.

Delta Dental offers these additional tricks for dealing with Halloween treats:

"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," Dr. Kohn said. "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."

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

About Delta Dental Plans Association
The not-for-profit Delta Dental Plans Association (, based in Oak Brook, IL, is the leading national network of independent dental service corporations. It provides dental benefits programs to more than 60 million Americans in more than 97,000 employee groups throughout the country. For more oral health news and information from Dr. Kohn and DDPA, subscribe to our blog and follow us on Twitter.


1Delta Dental conducted the 2011 Tricky Treats Halloween survey. Delta Dental network dentists were invited via e-mail to participate in the web-based survey. For results based on the total sample of 253, the margin of error is +/-6.15 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.