Last year, Americans spent $3.1 billion on Halloween candy. Parents and kids alike can’t help themselves but snack on the chewy, sugary, sticky sweets this time of year. Yet, this seasonal tradition doesn’t have to mean an increase in cavities.
Dr. Elliot and Dr. Nick at Long Island Implant & Cosmetic Dentistry discuss ways to cut down on dental damage, while still indulging your “sweet tooth” this Halloween season.
Best & worst Halloween candy for teeth
Cavities and tooth decay occur when the mouth is exposed to sugar for prolonged periods of time. The bacteria in the mouth feeds on this sugar and converts food into acid, which attacks tooth enamel and causes decay. Your best defense is to limit the amount of sugar sweets you eat, rinse and brush right afterward, and choose what you consume carefully.
Some of the worst offenders include:
- Chewy/sticky sweets that get stuck in the crevices between teeth — like gummies, taffy, caramels & dried fruit.
- Sour candies that are highly acidic and break down enamel quicker – like Sour Patch Kids, Nerds & Sweet Tarts.
- Sugary snacks that cause bacteria proliferation and decay – like candy corn, candy bars, Skittles & Pixie Stix.
By contrast, the following treats are much less harmful to the teeth:
- Sugar-free candies that stimulate cleansing saliva production – like lollipops and hard candies.
- Chewy sugar-free gum that dislodges stuck food particles and increases saliva production to decrease cavities.
- Dark chocolate that contains antioxidants which are good for the heart and blood pressure.
More tips for dental health
- Practice snacking in moderation: Denying kids (and yourself) treats often leads to binging and sneaking sweets on the sly, warn health experts. A better alternative is to decide on a set number of treats (say, 10) and stash the rest away.
- Set a designated “treat time” where candy is consumed in one fell swoop. Frequent snacking maintains a more acidic climate in the mouth that lends itself to cavities. Ideally, the treats will be consumed immediately following a meal, when the teeth have been exposed to carbs and sugar already. You’re also less likely to eat more candy if you’ve just satiated your hunger with a meal.
- Brush, floss and use mouthwash right afterward. At least rinse with water if you can’t brush. If you’ve eaten particularly sour candy, then it’s best to wait a half hour before brushing – after your saliva has had time to neutralize the enamel-weakening acid in the mouth. You may also consider buying “disclosing tablets,” which reveals built-up plaque and stains on the teeth, alerting you to areas where more brushing is necessary.
- Chew gum. Rinsing with water and chewing gum are two powerful inhibitors of candy. The American Dental Association recommends the following sugar-free varieties: Wrigley 5, Dentyne Ice, Extra, Ice Breakers Ice Cubes, Orbit For Kids, Orbit, Stride, and Trident.
Preserve your smile for years to come
Autumn is the perfect time to consider rectifying oral health issues you’ve been putting off for months. Long Island cosmetic dentists Dr. Elliot and Dr. Nick are happy to help you attain a beautiful smile in preparation for visits with family and friends over the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year holidays.
For starters, a simple in-office tooth whitening regimen yields dramatic results and doesn’t cost very much. White fillings can repair existing cavities and porcelain veneers can remedy stained, damaged or chipped teeth. Contact us today to discuss your options.