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By Times staff
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 29, 2002

ON HALLOWEEN, parents protective of their little goblins' teeth would do well to remember that the scary part of the tradition is not the sugar but the snacking.

Dr. Edward Gonzalez, a pediatric dentist in Tampa and a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, says candy is just one of many foods that can cause tooth decay.

"We try to take the pressure off the parents at Halloween and help (them) understand that all carbohydrates cause decay. The issue is how often during the day" are the teeth exposed, Gonzalez says.

He offers a quick quiz: Which is worse for the teeth, a pretzel, an apple or a candy bar?

A pretzel. Surprised? The pretzel and the apple are worse for the teeth than the candy bar because bits of those foods tend to get stuck in the teeth and cause decay. Some studies have actually shown that chocolate may neutralize the decay-producing acids in the mouth.

Some other tips:

  • Allow children to choose one or two pieces of candy after meals, because an acid attack is already under way.
  • Limit snacking to three or four times a day and remember to include foods needed for overall nutritional health, such as cheese, vegetables, yogurt and milk.
  • Make certain children brush at least twice a day (once in the morning and once before bed) and floss once a day.
  • For additional protection against cavities, Gonzalez recommends sealants on teeth and fluoride varnish, which is a fluoride treatment that lasts eight hours, is more fully absorbed than previous fluoride treatments and may reduce cavities by 75 percent.

* * *

NOVEMBER is Epilepsy Awareness Month, and Tampa General Hospital will offer a free educational program for patients and family members. The session will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at the hospital's rehabilitation center in the second floor dining room.

The hospital is at 2 Columbia Drive on Davis Islands.

Featured speakers will be Dr. Selim Benbadis, director of Tampa General's epilepsy program, and staffers Kip Anthony and Leanne Heriaud.

Parking is available in the city parking garage on the hospital campus; parking for the disabled is at the center.

Those who wish to attend or want more information may call (813) 844-4977 by Nov. 12.

* * *

Some scientists believe that the abortion pill mifepristone, once called RU-486, may eventually serve another, less controversial, purpose: treating a particularly fierce and intractable form of depression.

Two small studies, the latest appearing last month in the journal Biological Psychiatry, have found that mifepristone is effective in helping people whose severe depression is accompanied by delusional beliefs or hallucinations. Of the 30 patients in the recent study, those who took mifepristone for seven days at dosages higher than those used for abortions showed "substantial" and rapid improvement in their symptoms, the researchers found.

-- Staff writer Susan Aschoff and Times wires contributed to this report.

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