Ice cream might lead to cavities, but it won't hurt braces, unlike chewy Halloween treats.
To the parent of a kid in braces, a trick-or-treat bag full of caramel candies and bubblegum can be the scariest feature of Halloween. In fact, many of the most common Halloween treats can wreak havoc with orthodontic brackets and wires, potentially requiring expensive correction or lengthening treatment time.
"If it's sticky, chewy, hard or crunchy, it's a food that anyone wearing braces or retainers should avoid," says James J. Caveney, president of the American Association of Orthodontists.
Chicago orthodontist Lee Graber says, "The Monday after Halloween is typically Black Monday at orthodontic offices. Kids bite down with over 300 pounds per square inch of force, so hard Halloween candy can easily damage braces, causing pain or even moving teeth in the wrong direction."
To steer clear of unnecessary orthodontic damage, Graber recommends patients avoid the following sweets and snacks:
• candy bars with hard caramel filling or nuts,
• chewy candies such as taffy, jelly beans, caramel cubes, candy corn and gummy bears
• hard candy such as lollipops, mints, butterscotch, Skittles or frozen candy bars,
• popcorn, peanuts, pretzels and
Knowing where the dangers lie isn't necessarily going to keep a child from eating those tempting treats. So, what should you do when your child can't resist that package of gummy ghouls and finds herself with a wobbly orthodontic bracket or painfully bent wire? Call her orthodontist immediately and schedule a repair appointment within the next few days.
"Usually small problems can be solved over the phone. Loose or protruding brackets or wires can be held in place for the patient's comfort with orthodontic wax until they can come into the office," says Caveney.
To assess potential damage, Graber recommends installing a lighted magnifying mirror in the bathroom. After brushing, orthodontic patients should check in the mirror for remaining food debris that can cause cavities, discoloration and gum swelling. Loose brackets and wires can be tested by pushing gently on them with a finger. Any movement signals a problem.
And it is possible to celebrate Halloween without harming braces. Treats that pose no threat for orthodontic patients (assuming they brush and floss after eating) include soft chocolate, candy bars without sticky or crunchy filling, pre-packaged cookies and apple slices dipped in chocolate sauce
For more information about the treatment of orthodontic problems or braces-safe eating, check out the American Association of Orthodontists' Web site at www.braces.org or call (800) 787-2444.
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