This week children and adults will be celebrating Halloween, a night of feasting on candy and other sweets. During this holiday and the ones that follow, it’s almost impossible to attend festivities and not eat sweets. There are some strategies that parents and kids can follow on Halloween that will be better for their teeth and oral health, however. We’ll go over these in this blog.
Candy, Candy Everywhere
Sugar is bad for your oral health because it feeds the bacteria in your mouth. This bacteria in turn creates acid that will over time erode the enamel on your teeth. Sugars are found in all kinds of foods, from fruits to cakes and cookies. Not all sugary products are as dangerous for your teeth, though. Some are much worse for your teeth than others.
The worst kinds of candy are types that are very chewy or sticky. This would include gummy worms, taffy like Starburst or Now and Later candies, or caramels. They’re particularly bad because the sugars adhere to teeth and are hard to remove with brushing, especially when they get caught in the gaps or crevices between them. Some types of sticky candies adhere so well to teeth that they can cause fillings to loosen or pull out.
Another candy hazard is highly acidic candies like Sour Patch Kids, Lemon Heads, or sour Skittles. The acid in this type of candy is very powerful and can weaken and dissolve enamel very quickly. When candy is both sticky and sour, it’s doubly dangerous to your teeth.
People may think natural treats like raisins or fruit leathers are better for you, but they hold similar risks to the candies above, especially when they get caught between your teeth. We recommend rinsing out your mouth with water after eating sticky candies or dried fruits. Wait about a half and hour and then brush your teeth. This will give the water a chance to dilute the sugar so it can be more easily removed by brushing.
Better Halloween Candy Choices
If you decide to indulge in sweets, there are better choices than the above. Sugar-free gum can help to dislodge food (and candy) particles from the crevices between your teeth. It also increases saliva production in your mouth. Saliva naturally returns your mouth to a healthier balance; that is its function.
Sugar-free candies are, of course, sugar free and often contain xylitol. Xylitol can actually reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth – and the risk of getting cavities!
Dark chocolate is a much healthier choice of sweet. It contains antioxidants and has other benefits for overall health, and it doesn’t stick to your teeth.
Of course, for all sweets, it’s better if you eat them at once, rather than snacking on candy all day long or sucking on hard candies. The longer the sugar is in your mouth, the more potential it has to damage your teeth. If your kids come home on Halloween night with a bag full of candy, limit them to only a few treats a day and encourage them to eat these treats after a meal. The saliva in their mouths produced during the meal will help protect their teeth.
The best habit you can encourage during the holidays is to be aware of how much sugar you’re eating and remember to brush and floss more often. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are all feast seasons, and they occur during the darker part of the year when we all crave sweets more. It’s hard to limit sweets when they are everywhere and everyone else is eating them without thinking, but mindfulness and continued brushing will help protect your oral health and your health overall.
Having warned you about the sweets, we at Dental Associates of West Michigan would like to wish all of you a happy Halloween!