Shhh! Can you keep a secret? Word around town is that dentists love candy too! In fact, they may or may not have a shareable size bag of Skittles in their bag at this very moment. But don’t worry, they also love healthy smiles!
With candy season right around the corner, everybody here at Coast Dental would like to share these five important tips with you to keep your family’s teeth cavity-free this Halloween.
1. Know Your Tricks and Treats
When considering the health of your teeth, some candies are worse than others. The scariest candy culprits are chewy, sticky, tacky, gummy, hard, or sour. Let’s look at the reasons why these types of treats are so harmful to your teeth.
Chewy Candy Sticks to Your Teeth
Candies like Starburst, candy corn, Tootsie Rolls, and Swedish Fish get stuck inside the tiny grooves of your teeth and are difficult to remove, even after brushing. Loaded with sugar, they literally stick to your teeth, increasing your risk for cavities.
Sour Candy is Acidic
Candies like Sour Patch Kids are double-trouble — sticky and sour. The acid in sour candy weakens tooth enamel (the tooth’s outer layer), making you more susceptible to tooth decay.
Hard Candy Lasts Longer
How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? According to a study done by students at Bellarmine University, it takes around 175 licks — a long time for sugar to contact your teeth. Hard candy lasts longer — that’s if you don’t bite it first and break a tooth. Ouch! That’s one way to guarantee an emergency visit to your dentist.
Now that you know to avoid all the good stuff, what treats can you enjoy this Halloween? Chocolate (minus the sticky caramel or nougat) is a better option. It doesn’t stay on your teeth as long and some types of dark chocolate are actually healthy.
Since some kids and adults are allergic to chocolate or just don’t like it, let’s take a look at some other healthy Halloween tips.
2. Time Your Attack
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), frequent snacking throughout the day increases your risk for cavities. Frequency is more harmful than quantity when it comes to sugar consumption. Try to eat candy or offer it to your kids shortly after meals as a treat or dessert. This is the ideal time because your saliva increases while eating, helping to neutralize acids and wash away food particles.
To avoid the urge to grab a Hershey’s Kiss multiple times a day, get rid of the easily accessible candy jars. It may even be helpful to hide the candy — from yourself and your kids — and occasionally eat one or two pieces, as a reward or special treat.
3. Drink With Caution
Water is the best beverage for your teeth. It’s sugar-free and rinses away leftover food and cavity-causing bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking fluoridated water has an added benefit of strengthening tooth enamel, which helps to prevent cavities.
Water is especially helpful if your family is consuming high-sugar Halloween treats. Choose water instead of sodas, sports drinks, and fruit juices that leave even more sugar and acid on your teeth, potentially leading to tooth decay.
4. Better Now Than Later
Let’s face it, both kids and adults are likely to eat Halloween candy — lots of it. Remember, frequency is more damaging than quantity. With that being said, eat a lot at one time and get rid of what’s left. That means there’s only one sugar attack on your teeth instead of multiple attacks.
If you choose not to continue your sugar binge, here are some healthier options for your leftover Halloween candy:
Donate it to a charitable organization
Freeze it to use later for cooking or crafts
Take it to a dentist that participates in the Halloween Candy Buyback Program
5. Don’t Let Sweets Haunt Your Teeth
The best way to avoid cavities is to practice good oral hygiene throughout the entire year. Here are some ways to keep your family (and your dentist) smiling this Halloween:
Brush twice a day and after meals with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste
If brushing after meals isn’t possible, rinse with water
Wait 30-60 minutes after eating before brushing
Don’t forget to brush before bedtime
Drink lots of water
Schedule a routine cleaning appointment with your dentist
This Halloween, have fun, make memories, and enjoy your sweet treats. But don’t let sugar cause nightmares for your teeth. Trust your dentist’s advice. Beware of chewy, sticky, tacky gummy, hard, and sour candies. Eat your goodies at mealtime instead of throughout the day. Increase your water intake. Splurge now and consider healthier options for the leftovers. Most importantly, maintain good oral hygiene and visit your dentist twice a year.
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written by: Christa Cooley, DDS
reviewed by: Devin Gilliam, Debbie Nicholson