Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween: What's a dentist to do?

While dentists cringe at the thought of Halloween candy binges, they are practical.

Dentists agree the worst thing a kid can do is go to bed without brushing after gorging on the night's loot. But many are reluctant to throw a toothbrush into a goblin or witch's sack.
The staff at Portsmouth Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics has geared up for Halloween this year by decorating hallways and treatment rooms with caution tape, bats, sharks, ghosts, spider webs and spooky birds.

They have a contest to guess the weight of a giant pumpkin that sits in the entrance to their offices. The winner will have the "great pumpkin" delivered to his or her home. Young patients can also come by in costume Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week to have their photo snapped for a contest on the practice's Facebook page.

"We won't put their names, just a corresponding number with the photo," said Dr. Adam Bottrill.

Bottrill has three sons ages 9, 6 and 3, and he does give out candy on Halloween.

"At my house, we limit access to desserts," he said. "The kids know it's not an option to just eat their candy when they want. They can have some as a dessert — and then brush their teeth before bed."

He said he kind of likes the idea of "a night of splurging," that co-worker Dr. Deb Filocoma told him about.

"When I was in dental school, a professor told us that the Friday night after Halloween, he would pop a movie in the VCR and let his kids get their candy fix," Filocoma said. "They could eat as much as they wanted, get sick, whatever, but that was it. The rest of the candy was disposed of."

Filocoma said she gives out snack size bags of pretzels or popcorn. "The kids don't seem to mind," she said.

Geri Hunter, an orthodontist at Portsmouth Pediatric Dentistry said she gives out candy.

"My own kids are not big candy-eaters," she said.

Dentist Jon Wendell kidded and said he "takes the candy" for himself when his 8-year-old returns from trick-or-treating.

"And, I try and take the good stuff," he said.

Kidding aside, all agreed it's better to eat a lot of candy at once and then brush, rather than have prolonged exposure by eating a little here and there during the day.

"It's the sticky candy that's really bad for your teeth," said Dr. John Fitzsimons, a dentist with Families First Health and Support Center in Portsmouth.

"It's better to eat the candy after dinner, so you eat less," he said. "Frequent snacking on candy is particularly damaging."

Dental insurance company Northeast Delta Dental recently conducted a Tricky Treats survey of more than 250 dentists and found nearly one out of four said they do not hand out anything on Halloween, while 5 percent attack the holiday head on by handing out toothbrushes.

Still, 60 percent indicated 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, 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 for good reason. 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.

And then, there's Dr. Louis Clarizio, an oral surgeon who has been practicing in Portsmouth for 27 years.

"I used to give out toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss," he said. "But I decided to embrace Halloween."

And that he does. His home on Middle Street is a destination for trick-or-treaters. Clarizio turns his garage into a haunted house and hands out movie-sized boxes of candy and candy bars. He has ordered 200 each of 10 different confections.

"I'll probably get about 2,000 kids," he said.

He has orange lights and bats on his business sign on Islington Street with "Happy Halloween" down both sides of the sign.

His costume this year is a baby carrier with a "baby" that turns its head around to reveal it is really a "zombie baby," with eyes that light up red and says things in a creepy voice like "feed the baby."

Clarizio is also handing out Styrofoam sticks that light up in different colors.

"It's my favorite holiday," Clarizio said as he strolled back through his packed waiting room dressed in scrubs with the zombie baby attached to his chest.

Article from: Suzanne Laurent, Seacoast Online

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