Making more tooth-friendly choices for Halloween candy

HATBORO, Pa. (WPVI) -- Halloween is just around the corner.

For kids, trick or treating for candy is as exciting as getting into a costume.

But parents dread all those sweets.

We've met a local dentist with some ideas on avoiding a candy showdown.

"I don't expect any parent to do what I do and hand out toothbrushes for Halloween, says Dr. Michael Koumaras, of Best Dentist 4 Kids in Hatboro, Pa.

Dr. Michael Koumaras is actually a realist about Halloween candy - he knows kids expect it.

So he teaches parents about good and bad options.

His first thumb-down goes to chewy, sticky, gummy candies.

"Things like that that will get stuck in the grooves of your teeth," says Dr. Koumaras.

And modern soft-bristled tooth brushes aren't strong enough to dig out the sticky stuff.

Lollipops may be popular, because they last so long.

But Dr. Koumaras says that's trouble, too.

"You are actually creating an acidic environment and that sugar is going to be in your mouth for that much longer," he says.

Some candies can be double trouble, such as lollipops with chewy centers.

Chocolate can actually be a better choice, but skip the milk chocolate.

"There is a much lower percentage of actual chocolate in it and the rest of it is sugar," says Dr. Koumaras.

So look for chocolates with a high percentage of cocoa.

Dr. Koumaras says there's a growing number of sugar-free candies available now, including popular brands like Jolly Rancher.

And many drug stores and supermarkets now stock Zollipops, which are sweetened with xylitol.

This sweet treat was invented by a 7-year-old girl.

Allison DiSalvo says her talk with Dr. Koumaras will change her Halloween shopping.

"I didn't know there were healthier alternatives, and I'm really intrigued now and will check them out for sure," he says.

And her daughters give the no-sugar options a big thumbs up.

"Her goal is never to have a cavity," Allison says of her older daughter.

Dr. Koumaras says parents need just 2 guidelines for handling Halloween candy: moderation, and always brush thoroughly afterward.
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