Halloween is right around the corner, and while most of us are excited about the fun costumes, fall festivals, and bowls full of candy we know is coming, this time of year can be a source of anxiety for parents who have kids in braces. If you have a child undergoing orthodontic treatment, you may be nervous about how to balance the food restrictions of braces with all the sweets of the season. Candy with nuts and caramel, gummies, and other crunchy, sticky foods are definitely more trick than treat for braces patients, but that doesn’t have to mean staring wistfully from the sidelines as other children dig into their Halloween hauls!
Here at Dr. Jared Lee Orthodontics, we want our patients to enjoy all the fun this holiday has to offer without worrying about broken brackets, bent wires, or scheduling an emergency appointment. Because October is also National Orthodontic Health Month, it’s important to us that patients know what candy they can safely indulge in and which they should avoid in order to keep their braces safe and their smiles healthy during Halloween! With that in mind, we’ve prepared a simple Halloween Survival Guide for our braces patients, including a couple of recipes for making your own ghoulish goodies, and some simple tips on keeping your child’s teeth clean as they work their way through all their approved candy. Keep reading below for more!
Candy that should be kept in the crypt
Chewy candy is one of the worst enemies of braces because it can stick to the brackets, bands, and wires, and may even pull parts off. If your child’s teeth are tender from having braces put on or adjusted, these types of treats can also be painful to chew. Speaking of chewing, chowing down on hard candies puts a huge amount of pressure on braces, and can lead to broken brackets and bent wires. Every bracket or band that has to be replaced or repaired sets the orthodontic process back a step, so avoid the following to keep your child’s treatment plan progressing on schedule.
- Hard candy
- Jelly beans
- Candy corn
- Popcorn and caramel corn
- Chewy candy
- Candy and caramel apples
The list may seem long, but don’t despair – there’s still plenty of good stuff out there for your child to enjoy!
Candy that gets our seal of approval
When it comes to braces-friendly treats, anything with soft chocolate is a good choice. This includes several sweet staples, like:
- Reese’s peanut butter cups
- Kit Kats
- Plain M&M’s
- Reese’s Pieces
- 3 Musketeers
- Hershey Bars
- Hershey’s Kisses
Generally speaking, any candy bars that do not have caramel or nuts are also fine. Do keep in mind that biting into bigger candy bars can potentially damage the braces on your child’s front teeth, so breaking large candy bars into smaller pieces is better. Fortunately, Halloween is full of fun-sized and mini-sized bars, so you won’t have to worry too much about keeping braces safe!
Spooktacular Halloween recipes
Whether you’re throwing a costume party, have an invitation to one, or just feel like getting creative in the kitchen, we’ve got two delicious desserts that can be whipped up in no time and will please all the ghoulies and ghosties in your life this Halloween, braces or not!
(Adapted from www.pumpkinnook.com)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup canned or fresh cooked pumpkin
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
20 wooden sticks (tongue depressors or Popsicle sticks)
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter, brown sugar and orange zest. Add the pumpkin, egg yolk and vanilla, and blend.
- Gradually add the flour and spices. Mix with your hands to create a soft dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Divide dough into two portions. Roll out each piece to 1/4-inch thickness on a floured surface. Cut into pumpkin shapes with cookie cutters.
- Place on ungreased baking sheet and securely insert a wooden stick into the bottom half of each pumpkin cookie.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
- Decorate with your favorite frosting and Halloween decorations.
(Makes about 36 eyeballs)
¼ c. butter, completely softened
2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 c. creamy peanut butter
1 ½ c. toasted rice cereal (like Rice Krispies)
12 oz. white chocolate
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Food coloring (two colors)
- Combine the butter, powdered sugar, and peanut butter in a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until well combined. (If you don’t have an electric mixer, this can be done by hand.)
- Mix in the toasted rice cereal; Using your hands, form into ½ oz. balls (the size of a large marble) and refrigerate until firm (about 1 hour).
- Place the white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Melt, adding vegetable oil partway through. After all chocolate is melted, stir until smooth.
- Dip the balls, one at a time, into the melted white chocolate mix using a fork to roll them around so they are entirely coated; remove them from the chocolate and set on a waxed paper lined sheet pan. Chill to set up (about 30 minutes).
- Separate remaining white chocolate into two bowls and add 1-2 drops of food coloring to tint each bowl a different color.
- Reheat chocolate if necessary, and using a small spoon, place a dollop of the colored chocolate on each eyeball to make an iris. Use a smaller drop of the contrasting color for the pupil.
- Let the chocolate set; place balls in individual mini muffin papers and serve.
Basic braces care
In all the excitement of Halloween, it can be easy to skip a brushing session or two, but you should actually take extra care with your child’s teeth during this time. Even if the only candy they’re eating is braces-friendly, the increased amount of sugar hitting the teeth can be harmful if it’s not removed promptly.
Practicing good oral hygiene will help to prevent cavities as your kids make their way through that giant bag of Halloween candy! That means brushing at least twice a day and flossing before bed. Encourage your child to pair a glass of water with treat time, as water naturally helps to wash sugary debris from building up around their braces and lingering on the teeth.
Sharing is caring
Donating the unwrapped candy they can’t have gives your child a sense of pride, and can help take the sting out of not being able to indulge in some of their favorite Halloween treats. It’s also an easy way to brighten someone’s day! Many charitable organizations accept donations of unopened candy, including:
Operation Gratitude sends care packages to U.S. troops that are stationed overseas and first responders still here at home. Their mission is to put smiles on soldiers’ faces, and they encourage families to include letters and pictures with their donation.
Similar to Operation Gratitude but a bit smaller scale, Soldiers’ Angels do a “Treats for Troops” event annually. You can click here to find a donation drop-off point, or register to start a drive of your own!
The Ronald McDonald House is famous for providing a place for families to stay together when a child is seriously ill. Most locations will accept donations of unopened candy for their resident families after Halloween. You can find your local chapter here, and you may want to call ahead to find out the rules for dropping off candy before heading that way!
Do you prefer to keep things closer to home? Check in with your local homeless shelter, food pantry, or nursing home. Children in shelters may not have the chance to go trick-or-treating, and you can make donations for nursing home residents and guests even more special by including notes or drawings from your children.
Happy Halloween from Dr. Jared Lee Orthodontics
We hope this guide has helped you see that braces don’t have to take the fun out of your child’s Halloween celebrations! If you’re still not sure how to help them, our team is always here to help. We’re happy to answer any questions or discuss any concerns you have about your child’s treatment. Whatever your family’s plans for Halloween include, we hope it’s safe, happy, and full of healthy smiles!