Frequency of Sugar Consumption Is the Scariest Thing About Halloween

Thursday, October 16, 2008 General News
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SEATTLE, Oct. 15 Ghosts, goblins and things that go "bump"in the night aren't nearly as frightening as cavities and decaying teeth,according to Washington Dental Service. Each year, the nonprofit organizationembarks on its annual campaign to educate parents about the severe effectsthat recurrent sugar consumption has on children's teeth.

Dental disease is the number one chronic disease of early childhood. Itcan be painful and can affect children's nutritional intake and earlydevelopment.

More than 51 million hours of school time are lost each year, in fact,because of tooth decay and related problems. A 2005 Washington StateDepartment of Health "Smile Survey" showed that nearly 60 percent ofelementary school-aged children in the state of Washington suffer frompreventable dental decay. Nearly 25 percent suffer from cavities in seven ormore teeth.

By observing a few simple strategies and using common sense, however,parents can help protect their kids' teeth and mount an attack on the largequantities of sugar they'll find in their little ones' goodie bags.

"Dental disease is a year-round concern for parents and children, but evenmore so during Halloween," said Dr. Ron Inge, vice president and dentaldirector at Washington Dental Service. "By following a few simple practices,parents can help their children reduce the negative impacts of too muchsugar."

As part of its strategy to raise community awareness, Washington DentalService is partnering with Woodland Park Zoo during its annual three-dayevent, "Pumpkin Prowl," from 5-8 p.m., Oct. 24-26. Pumpkin Prowl hosts morethan 15,000 parents and children in the community with a Halloweencelebration, including live entertainment, activities, costumes and trick ortreating. For more information on ticket prices and a list of activities,visit or or call the zoo'sgeneral information line at (206) 548-2500.

According to Dr. Inge, a few simple practices, with an emphasis onlimiting the duration that children's teeth are exposed to sugar, can proveeffective in helping to prevent tooth decay:

Sugar is the fuel that naturally-occurring bacteria in the mouth use tocreate destructive acids. Over time, these acids destroy tooth enamel andeventually cause tooth decay.

"Encouraging good oral health habits during Halloween and throughout theyear will promote good oral health habits for a lifetime," said Dr. Inge. "Byfollowing these tips, parents will ensure that a little extra candy atHalloween won't be a setback for your kids' oral and overall health."

Washington Dental Service and the Washington Dental Service Foundationhave a strong commitment to reducing tooth decay among children throughseveral oral health initiatives, including the Access to Baby & ChildDentistry program (ABCD); Cavity-Free Kids; and, most recently, KC Kids, whichprovided $1 million to provide no-cost dental care to low-income children inKing County.

In addition, Washington Dental Service and WDS Foundation committed $5million to a new Early Childhood Oral Health Center (called ECOH), which willdouble the capacity of the University of Washington and Seattle Children'sHospital to provide dental care to the underserved children in the community.The center, which will be located at Magnuson Park, is scheduled to open in2009.

For more information on oral health tips and the importance of early,regular oral health care, visit the American Dental Association at

About Washington Dental Service and Washington Dental Service Foundation

Washington Dental Service, a member of the Delta Dental Plans Association,is the leading dental benefits company in the state of Washington, deliveringhigh-quality, affordable dental care to more than 2 million people throughemployer-sponsored programs. Established in 1954, Washington Dental Servicewas the nation's first dental benefits carrier. As a nonprofit, public benefitcorporation, Washington Dental Service and Washington Dental ServiceFoundation work to improve oral health in order to improve overall health. Formore information, visit Avoid hard or chewy candies, including suckers, caramels, popcorn balls and gum with sugar. These are often the worst offenders since they can bathe teeth in sugar for long periods of time and can be problematic for children wearing braces and other oral appliances. -- Give your children small candy bars and other candies that can be consumed more quickly and easily. -- Avoid letting kids "graze" because it can increase the exposure of teeth to sugar. -- Monitor how much candy your children eat. Permitting them to eat a few small pieces in one sitting followed by drinking a glass of water or a thorough tooth brushing is an effective way to combat the effects of sugary candy. -- Offer your children alternatives such as sugar-free candy, nuts or cheese. -- Consider Xylitol gum or candy. Xylitol is proven to prevent cavities.

SOURCE Washington Dental Service

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