Halloween is rearing its jack-o-lantern-shaped head and, of course, most kids couldn’t be any more excited. Partaking in costumes and trick-or-treating have become pastimes for American children. Despite the joy of the tradition, however, there is one aspect of the holiday that the adolescents love but their dentists may hate: sugar-based candy. With Halloween being ages old, maybe it’s time to start a new, healthy tradition for Halloween treats?
As future dentists, surely we all know the negative effects of sugar on the dentition—dental caries being the obvious result. Young children are largely affected by this disease. As report by Carifree.com, 52 million school hours are lost each year due to dental disease. Also, by age 11, 50% of kids experience tooth decay. According to the National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research, 42% of children 2 to 11 have had dental caries in their primary teeth and 23% of children 2 to 11 have untreated caries.
Indulging in Snickers, Skittles, Hershey bars, candy corn, etc. may not be too harmful to children if consumed in moderation. As future dental professionals, however, we still need to acknowledge and cater to adolescents who have cannot eat Halloween candy because of food allergies. According to Foodallergy.org, 1 in 13 children have allegoric reactions (some even life threatening) to certain foods. It doesn’t help that most popular candy bars contain common allergens like nuts, soy, eggs, wheat, and dairy.
The Teal Pumpkin Project was launched as a national campaign in 2014 by FARE—Food Allergy Research & Education. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness about food allergies. This idea is the brainchild of Becky Basalone, Civil Servant and Founder/Director of the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee. She also the mother of a child with severe food allergies. At Halloween, she decided to hand out alternatives to candy, such as small toys and other non-edible fun treats and created a movement to enable her kids to partake in the holiday.
Teal is the color of choice for Basalone’s project because it is the national color for food allergy awareness. If you are trick-or-treating and see a teal-painted pumpkin on someone’s front yard, do not expect to receive candy. If you’re not sure what to hand out in lieu of sugary snacks, think about other things children enjoy. Crayons, bracelets, markers, necklaces, stickers, bubbles, noisemakers, action figures, and other toys are all good alternatives.
The Teal Pumpkin Project has significantly grown in popularity and is widely embraced by parents around the country. The campaign has reached 5.5 million people on Facebook and attracted national media attention.
This Halloween, let’s make healthy decisions for the children. They can still partake in the joy of the holiday without indulging in junk food. Let’s give them treats that do not negatively affect their oral health or trigger allergies. Breaking tradition in this case should be accepted because the health of our children is worth preserving.