Now that we’ve flipped the calendar over to October, it’s officially time to get excited for Halloween! Your kids are probably already contemplating their costume and dreaming about candy. As parents (and dentists), we want to help ensure your kids have a fun-filled Halloween while keeping those teeth healthy.
Why is Candy so Bad for Teeth?
There are hundreds of different species of bacteria living in your mouth. These bacteria feed off sugar. While they are eating, they produce acid that damages the enamel of the tooth, leading to cavities and tooth decay.
The Worst Candy for Teeth
Most candies contain sugar. However, you may not be aware that some candy is worse for your teeth than others.
Sticky candy such as taffy or caramels can get stuck in the nooks and crannies of the teeth. It’s difficult to remove, meaning it will stay on the teeth longer.
Hard candy requires you to eat it slowly, which means its sugars linger in your mouth longer. In addition, biting down on hard candy can chip, crack or damage a tooth.
Sour candy contains not only sugar, but acid as well. This combination is a double whammy for tooth decay.
Better Candy Options for Teeth
When we say “better,” we don’t mean healthy. Candy is fine in moderation, but these candies will damage your teeth the least.
Chocolate dissolves quickly, which means it doesn’t stick around on teeth. Dark chocolate is even better for teeth because it contains less sugar.
Sugar free candy contains a sugar substitute. It also stimulates saliva production, which washes away bacteria and plaque that cause tooth problems. Keep in mind that the sugar substitutes can impact other aspects of your health and be wary of eating large quantities.
Candies with nuts break up sticky residue left behind on teeth and decrease the likelihood of cavities forming. Nuts can also help remove plaque on teeth.
Other Ways to Prevent Tooth Decay
Allowing kids to binge on an excessive amount of sugar can have other consequences in addition to tooth decay. It can affect the child's mood, activity and hyperactivity levels and cause an upset stomach. After the festivities are over, ask for your child’s candy with the promise that they can pick 1-2 pieces each day as a treat. Find a place to stash the remainder of the candy so that they (and you!) won’t be tempted to snack in between.
Don’t allow your child to eat candy as a snack. Candy is usually full of empty calories that provide very little nutrition and still leave your child feeling hungry, which can lead to more snacking. Instead, permit a piece of candy after a meal. The increased saliva from eating helps break down sugar. Also, if your child is already full, they will be less likely to want to overindulge.
Don’t serve sugary drinks alongside the candy. Opt for water instead, which will help wash away sugar and bacteria. Finally, don’t forget to remind your children to brush and floss twice a day.