Halloween may be a little bit different this year, but you’ll probably still have some candy and treats around the house. Let’s refresh our memory on the best and worst treats for dental health.
As a rule of thumb, if it’s sticky, chewy or hard candy, it’s bad for the teeth and must be consumed in moderation. Sticky and chewy foods will linger in your mouth longer as they tend to get stuck in the pits and grooves on the chewing surfaces of teeth and even in the valleys between the teeth. Hard items are very hard on the teeth and potentially the gum tissues. Teeth can actually fracture or develop micro-fractures called craze lines when hard foods, candies and/or items like ice are bitten into. Additionally, these hard items may be sucked on for longer periods when they aren’t bitten into quickly which means a longer sugar exposure to the teeth. With that being said, we will discuss how these Halloween treats stack up.
The Worst Halloween Treats
Citrus candies: Some of our grandparents probably think this is a food group as they always seem to find their way into glass dishes on coffee tables. However, those jellied or candied fruits and lemon drops contain tons of sugar and acid! The good news is that they stimulate salivary flow which does help neutralize the acid. Still, consumption in moderation is the key.
Hard candy: As mentioned above, all candies you end up keeping in your mouth for a long time are bad. Lollipops, toffees, jawbreakers. Hard candy is super sugary by nature and lead to extended sugar exposure. The bacteria that live in our mouths love to eat sugar and make acid byproducts during digestion. This is how cavities begin. Hard candies can also chip and fracture teeth because they are so hard if bitten into immediately.
Gummies, licorice and sticky candy: Gummy and sticky candy can easily get jammed into the grooves on our teeth. This is a very high risk area for cavities to form as it is very difficult to brush anyway. Caramel is probably the quintessential sticky candy that is loaded in sugar and gets packed into hard to clean areas.
Sour candy: As if the sugar wasn’t bad enough, sour candies also have citric acid, and it’s very acidic. Demineralization of enamel can begin at a pH of 5.5. Many sour candies have a pH of less than 2.5! Battery acid has a pH of 2.0!!!
The Best Treats
Sugar-free candy and gum: These are delicious, too! They often have xylitol, a natural, tooth-friendly, cavity-fighting sweetener. ADA approved sugar-free candy and xylitol gum can even help against tooth decay.
Granola bars and trail mix: As long as it’s not too sticky or chewy, these are good, healthy options. Coconut, almonds, yogurt nibs and dark chocolate chips melt in your mouth and don’t stay as long. In addition, the friction that some contents of these foods provide the teeth can knock plaque and some calculus off the teeth.
Chocolate: Speaking of melting in the mouth, chocolate is wonderful. It washes off the teeth easily – if you make sure it’s just chocolate, not mixed with caramel and toffee! Dark chocolate also has less sugar and milk content, making it even better than regular milk chocolate. It’s also loaded with anti-oxidants. What a great choice!
No matter what treat you and your kids eat, swish your mouth with water. This cuts down the acid in your mouth and rinses away some of the particles that stick on and in between teeth.
Eat your treats as dessert with a meal. Elevated salivary flow during and after a meal also works to help us wash away cavity-causing acids and bacteria.
Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth after eating sugary treats. This gives your mouth enough time to neutralize the acid in your mouth. Brushing too soon just means you’re rubbing your teeth enamel immediately after acid exposure has softened the top layer of enamel. This can lead to erosion of our limited supply of enamel. This process speeds up tooth yellowing that occurs to all of us with age.
You may also consider dental sealants for teeth protection this Halloween and for the rest of the upcoming holidays! You can read more about the benefits of sealants here.
About Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan
Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan has specialized in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics since 1968. Our family-friendly and newly renovated office gives patients and families a more comfortable and consistent experience with dentistry from the very beginning. Our pediatric dentists treat children from newborn to 18 years of age while our orthodontists provide care for both children and adults and are proud to be Premier Providers of Invisalign and Invisalign Teen services. We have the ability to treat all patients with compassion and individuality, including those that may have special needs as we have treatment rooms available for children who require additional privacy and customized care options. We pioneered valued hospital affiliations to allow dental services to be performed at DMC Children’s Hospital and St. John Macomb Hospital, when appropriate or necessary, and our specialists are also proud to be on staff at Henry Ford and Beaumont hospitals.