Skittles or a Toothbrush? How To Disappoint a Kid on Halloween
Halloween just passed so we dental professionals are in overdrive trying to reinstate the importance of oral health. The recently implemented “National Brush Your Teeth Day” was the first ever attempt at reminding kids the day after Halloween that you just HAVE TO brush well, especially when munching on so many sticky, sugary sweets.
Now that Halloween has ended and you can reflect on how the kids reacted to whatever treat you gave away, Harmon Pearson presents an interesting view on how to approach Halloween as a dental pro. Do you agree?
Is it you? Are you that house, that one house in every neighborhood, that shakes up the system and crushes the hopes and dreams of every mini Captain America and Princess Bubblegum? Are you at that house handing out toothbrushes on that one day a year when kids can accept candy from strangers and no one bats an eye? Or is it floss? Or mini-toothpaste? Or worse yet, Tootsie Rolls? Are you the one person bent on destroying the sanctity of Halloween?
I’m kidding of course. Mostly. I know you’re not bent on ruining Halloween (well, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt). Some people do it with the best of intentions. Others do it to send a message. All that candy is going to rot your teeth. But, bear in mind the entirety of the holiday season — from the end of October through the first of January — can be a trying time for your teeth. And it’s not like Halloween is the singular “Day of Candy.” What kid wants to find a toothbrush and floss in their stocking at Christmas? None. That’s how many.
But is handing out toothbrushes or other oral hygiene products really useful? Parents might appreciate it and think it’s a wonderful idea (not to mention dentists) and obviously the kids are going to complain. It’s inevitable. “Awww, what? LUH-AME!” They expect candy. They demand it. It’s drilled into their precious minds and to be honest, I can’t think of too many people who’d be thrilled at the prospect of finding a toothbrush mixed in with their sugary delights when expectations have been set like they have. It seems rather unappreciative to complain about getting a toothbrush over a piece of candy, but look at it this way, if that person wasn’t handing out a toothbrush, what would they be handing out? Werther’s Originals? Necco Wafers? Those strawberry things? Little boxes of raisins? Nothing at all?
It’s certainly a cultural thing, driven by over-commercialization (and so on, but I’m not going to get into this right now). Kids will go through their candy, they’ll eat it, trade away the gross stuff, maybe get a little sick, and put their pancreas into overdrive, but they’ll stabilize (er, most of them will stabilize). It might take a few weeks, but as long as they already practiced good oral hygiene, the extra candy isn’t going to change anything as far as their teeth go, for better or worse. At the same time, kids who didn’t practice good oral hygiene, a toothbrush in their Halloween loot probably isn’t going to change anything either. Everything on November 1st is as it was on October 30th.
So, what’s the takeaway? What does giving out toothbrushes on Halloween accomplish? An egged house? Maybe. A disappointed kid? Completely. Sure, there are some kids who might appreciate a toothbrush (I needed a new one anyway), but in the bigger picture, most probably aren’t going to appreciate it, or give it much thought beyond the initial and fleeting disappointment. And it probably isn’t going to change any brushing habits — that starts at home each and every day. Does that mean you should stop giving out toothbrushes? Absolutely not! Kids may be unappreciative or unreceptive, with their eyes on the edible, sweeter prize, but the message a toothbrush sends remains an important one.