The leaves are turning, pumpkins abound and everyone is preoccupied with their costumes; Ah, Halloween has arrived. But there is something even more sinister than witches and ghouls lurking in the shadows come October 31st – tooth decay.
Halloween is the number one holiday for candy consumption in the United States. Last year, Americans spent over $2.7 billion on candy alone and whether you are three or sixty-three, just about everyone will dip into the candy stash on Halloween. The good news is not all sweets are the same when it comes to dental health. If you limit the amount of certain types of treats this season, you can spare yourself the nightmare of the dental chair come November.
Top Treats to Avoid this Halloween
Sticky Halloween Candy
Sour Halloween Candy
Hard Halloween Candy
The candies that are most cariogenic (most likely to cause cavities) are the ones that are the stickiest. This is because they get lodged between teeth creating a sugar-bath in your mouth. The bacteria in your mouth then convert this sugar to acid that wears down enamel and makes your teeth vulnerable to cavities.
Limit candy such as: Starbursts, taffy, caramels
Sour candy is designed to make your mouth pucker and is often significantly sourer than other foods you may eat. When your teeth are exposed to acidic foods, the protective enamel begins to erode, leaving the softer inner areas where cavities develop exposed.
Limit candy such as: gummy worms, Sour Skittles, Warheads
It’s best to limit the amount of hard candies for the same reason you want to limit sticky ones. Hard candies spend a lot of time in your mouth increasing the duration that your teeth spend soaking in sugar.
Limit candy such as: Jolly Ranchers, lollipops, mints with sugar
Better Halloween Candy Options
It has been well-established that dark chocolate has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. This may lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cancer and dementia. However, a growing body of evidence is suggesting that dark chocolate helps fight plaque-causing bacteria and may help to strengthen tooth enamel. Be sure to buy chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa and has less than 8 grams of sugar.
Candy Bars with Nuts
Nuts are excellent at breaking apart sticky candy so it doesn’t linger in your mouth. They are low in carbs also so they don’t actively add to your risk of tooth decay, and because they are abrasive, they give your teeth a micro-scrubbing between brushes.
If you’re someone who likes munching on sweets throughout the day, consider replacing sugary treats with sugar-free gum. Sugar-free gum gives you the sweet taste you crave without a bacteria causing sugar-bath. According to the American Dental Association, chewing sugar-free gum after you eat also helps to neutralize acid in your mouth.
Everyone chomps down on treats now and then, but you should try to limit the amount of cavity-causing candy in your diet and replace it with better options for dental health wherever possible. Experts also recommend eating sweets in one-sitting following a meal rather than several times a day in order to limit the time your teeth are exposed to sugar. If you follow these tips, you can ensure the Jack ‘O Lantern is not the only one wearing a big grin come October 31st.