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It's candy season so let the kids indulge

September 14, 2008 |  9:00 am

It's that time of year. The haul of Halloween candy kicks it off, and close on its heels are Thanksgiving pies and Christmas cookies. Here's some surprising advice from a pediatric dentist: Let them stuff their little mouths.

"The frequency of eating candy and other refined carbohydrates, and their stickiness, are big factors in creating the risk of" cavities, says Dr. Mark Helpin in a press release. "Parents can let kids eat a bunch (of candy) now and a bunch later. But don't let them have one piece now, then an hour later let them have another piece."

That's because eating carbohydrates makes the mouth more acidic, which makes it more vulnerable to cavities. And each separate time candy is eaten, it can take an hour for the acidic environment to dissipate. So it may not be a bad idea to let them gorge from that Halloween plastic pumpkin and get it over with. It can be better than doling out a piece now, then another piece an hour later.

But Helpin, acting chairman of pediatric dentistry at Temple University's Maurcie H. Kornberg's School of Dentistry, says there are things parents can do to reduce the risk of cavities. Dessert after a meal is a good time for sweets because eating meals increases the production of saliva, which helps wash away acidity in the mouth.

And, of course, they should brush after eating candy. If that's not possible, have them rinse their mouths with water three or four times after eating sweets -- or pretzels or potato chips, for that matter.

“It's not realistic to think you can tell your child you can't have candy, cookies, cakes, or other treats,” says Helpin. “Those are the things most people enjoy — and we want our kids to enjoy life.”

Now that's the kind of dentist a kid could love.

-- Susan Brink