Halloween is the start of the holiday season with sweets and candies to fill our homes. This year may bring a new array of treats to pleasure our palates. The May 2011 Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago showed more than 2,000 new confectionery and snack foods that will be hitting the shelves this year. The National Confectionery Association (NCA) is reporting a new health trend in snack consumption.

"Consumers look for value, exciting flavors, and nutrition when seeking new sweets and snacks," said Larry Graham, president of the NCA. Along with this new awareness in candy consumption should be a recurrent awareness in dental health.

As most of us look for good value, almost everyone looks for good taste. Candies are presenting with distinctive blends of fruits and interesting flavors, such as chili and mint. The NCA also reports a new movement towards healthier sweets that may contain vitamins or all-natural ingredients. Americans are consuming more dark chocolate, as it is perceived to be healthier. Even with this trend towards healthier sweets, it is still important for parents to raise dental health awareness in the home at the start of this season.

Dental health begins with monitoring what is consumed. Regulating frequency of consumption is more important than quantity of consumption. If candy is consumed frequently, the saliva does not have the opportunity to clear away the sugars. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends sugar-free products if candies are to stay in the mouth for a long period of time. Sugared candy should be consumed at mealtime to allow the saliva to neutralize the oral environment.

If candy is consumed as a snack, then children should either brush their teeth immediately or drink water to help flush the sugars off the teeth.

With the new array of healthier and unique sweets coming our way, it is important to remember the above dental tips in preventing tooth decay.

Be sure to have family members visit the dentist every six months, as recommended by the ADA, for cleanings and exams in order to catch decay early and help promote overall oral health.

• Dr. Rashmi (Rush) Bhatnagar, DMD, MPH, can be contacted at (480) 598-5900 or visit www.BellaVistaDentalCare.com.

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