Don’t Let the Halloween Oral Bug Bite

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BSDHT’s Julie Deverick explores the haunting reality of Halloween

It’s easy to pass off Halloween as much more of an American tradition than a UK one. Although Halloween has origins in the UK (the celebration is inspired by a pagan festival called Samhain), it is undeniably more popular over the pond where some estimates suggest that as many 175 million people actively celebrate the holiday every year. Around seven out of 10 people hand out sweets to trick or treaters, and the spending in America for Halloween in 2018 totalled an impressive $9 billion [1].

But Halloween in the UK is mostly relegated to children’s parties and university socials, right? Data collected about Halloween in the UK seems to disagree. According to statistics, Halloween retail spending is increasing considerably every year, as more and more people rush out to buy costumes, sweets, and other ghoulish delights to decorate their homes with in the run up to 31st October. In 2018 the UK population spent £419 million on Halloween, a marked increase from the £310 million spent just two years before [2].

Different claims suggest that British expenditure on the festival was even higher at £690 million in 2018, with the average parent splashing out at least £42.15 on their costume, costumes for their children, sweets and decorations [3].

In many ways this boom in popularity makes sense. Winter is already a long, and often depressing part of the year for UK residents, so having something to look forward to definitely encourages people to remain positive. Another reason that Halloween may be rising in popularity is the advent of social media.

It’s hard to log in around October time without seeing posts of people frolicking through pumpkin patches, displaying craft cookery ideas (spooky ghost cookies, anyone?) and ever more impressive costumes [4]. This not only increases awareness of the celebration but encourages people to join in – it’s surprising how involved people get if they think it will bring them a few extra likes!

All manner of people now embrace Halloween, and whether you’re heading to a fancy-dress party at a luxury hotel – or attending an indie screening of classic horror films – the celebration of all things spooky has become a solid part of the yearly calendar.

But what does this mean for oral health? The most obvious dangers behind Halloween is the increase in sugar consumption by both children and adults. Free sweets are a wonderful treat, but it’s important that people tell their children (and themselves!) to ration these sweet treats so that they are not consuming well above their daily limit of sugar on All Hallows’ Eve. This will help avoid increased levels of tooth decay.

Another thing people need to be mindful about is alcohol consumption. It’s just as likely that come 31st October people will be heading out to an alcohol fuelled night of revelry instead of staying home with some horror films and a pumpkin, and this is something that alcohol brands have taken note of.

You can now buy special Halloween edition bottles of drink, and most bars will have themed cocktails bursting with hard liquor and sugary syrups to make them look like haunted swamp water or vampire blood.

The fact remains that although it’s good to have a party, alcohol is bad for our oral health and needs to be moderated – just as much as our sugar intake.

Of course, although Halloween has its downsides it’s also a great opportunity for your practice to get involved in the fun. Could you do a dress-up day at work (within reason – you need to ensure these costumes are safe to work in)? How about offering some spooky deals on tooth whitening or other treatments? Halloween is a commercial opportunity, and as long as you warn patients about the dangers, there’s no reason that you can’t join in and enjoy a day of devilish delights.

Author:

Julie Deverick is the BSDHT President. Julie has over 30-years-experience as a dental hygienist, during which time she has also gained skills in teaching, management and administration which help her in her BSDHT role.

Julie continues to work in practice so she understands some of the frustrations and limitations of the job, which is why she is keen to continue supporting members of BSDHT by working with the Executive Committee and others, to break the barriers that confine dental hygienists and dental therapists in the workplace. For more information, go to www.bsdht.org.uk  

References:

1] CNN. Halloween Fast Facts. Link: https://edition.cnn.com/2013/06/13/us/halloween-fast-facts/index.html [Last accessed July 19].

2] Statista. Retail Expenditure on Halloween Products in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2013 to 2018 (in Million GBP). Link: click HERE.  [Last accessed July 19].

3] Radio X. This is How Much The UK Will Spend on Halloween 2018. Link: https://www.radiox.co.uk/features/uk-will-spend-690m-celebrating-halloween-2018/ [Last accessed July 19].

4] The Telegraph. How Britain Finally Fell for Halloween. Link: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/fatherhood/how-britain-finally-fell-for-halloween/ [Last accessed July 19]