Tricky Treats: Halloween & Dental Health
Along with ghosts and ghouls, Halloween brings lots of sugary goodies for kiddos—and adults. The threat of tooth decay can be as scary as anything that goes bump in the night, but you don’t have to hang up your costume and trick-or-treating bucket because of it. Kids and adults can still enjoy all of the sweet things spooky season has to offer. By taking a few simple precautions, you and your family won’t need to be frightened by the possibility of cavities.
sugar and cavities
We all know that sugar causes cavities. But, how exactly? Cavities are formed by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth. Your saliva helps wash it away, but when you have sugary foods or drinks, the bacteria also consumes the sugar. This causes it to produce an acid, which weakens your enamel and causes tooth decay.
Cavities are most common among children, but changes that come with aging can make them a problem in adulthood as well. Recession of the gums and gum disease can expose the roots of your teeth to plaque. The roots are covered in a softer tissue than enamel called cementum. This makes them more susceptible to decay. If you had cavities filled as a child, the area round the filling may be weaker and more vulnerable as well.
in the candy bowl
Regular oral hygiene means you can enjoy candy and other treats without too much worry about tooth decay. However, it still can’t hurt to make smart choices when taking your pick from the candy bowl. Not all sugary snacks have the same effect on your teeth.
- Chocolate ⇨ Perhaps the most popular type of candy passed out on Halloween, chocolate treats actually offer less potential for dental problems, making them a good choice. Chocolate washes off your teeth easily. It also usually has less sugar and acid than other candies, and dark chocolate has even less sugar than milk varieties.
- Gummy candy ⇨ On the opposite end of the spectrum, gummy and sticky candies are among the worst for your teeth. They are often made entirely of sugar and are harder to clean off, which gives cavity-causing bacteria more time to feed off what’s left behind.
- Hard candy ⇨ These treats come with their own hazards for your teeth. Crunching on them can cause you to break a tooth, and if you opt to suck on them, you’ll keep the candy in your mouth for longer, causing the sugar to mix with your salvia and wash over your teeth.
- Sour candy ⇨ If a candy makes you pucker, it’s likely highly acidic. That sour flavor comes from a combination of tartaric and citric acids, and it means higher potential for damage to your teeth’s enamel, which causes greater vulnerability to cavities. Candies that are sour and sticky, like sour gummy worms, offer a double whammy of potential for tooth decay.
- Popcorn and kettle corn ⇨ If you opt to enjoy this fall favorite, make sure you have floss on hand. Kernels can easily get stuck between your teeth. If you choose kettle corn or popcorn balls, you’ll also need to be aware that it’s going to be sugary and potentially sticky or hard.
tricks for dealing with halloween treats
- Drink water ⇨ Encourage kids to drink water while they eat their trick-or-treating haul. This will help wash away the sugar so it makes less contact with enamel. Avoid sodas and other sugary drinks. They’re never good for teeth, but they are especially bad in combination with candy.
- Don’t snack ⇨ Think of candy as a special treat and don’t visit the candy bowl throughout the day. General snacking increases your risk of cavities, and that’s doubly true with sugary foods.
- Pick the right time ⇨ Try to limit candy eating time to immediately after meals. You produce more saliva during mealtimes, and that can help balance out the acids in your sweets and wash away bacteria and sugar particles.
- Chew sugar-free gum ⇨ Evidence has shown that chewing gum for 20 minutes after meals helps reduce your risk of tooth decay because it increases saliva production.
- Keep up your dental hygiene routine ⇨ Make sure you and your family are brushing
and flossing at least twice a day.