A short candy education can go a long way.
Some holidays are easier than others when it comes to avoiding candy. During Easter baskets are easily filled with books or toys, and Christmas stockings can be lovingly filled with useful non-candy goodies as well. As I write this article, we are approaching Halloween, and admittedly, Halloween candy expectations are more challenging to alter.
When you’re a kid, the best part of Halloween is collecting as much candy you possibly can. This quantity of candy, of course, under any other circumstance, would be impossible to slip past your parents.
As your dentist, I have to tell you I can’t all together condone candy eating. Sugar itself doesn’t cause cavities, but it feeds the bacteria that cause cavities. When the bacteria feed on sugar, they produce acid, and it’s that acid that eats away at your tooth enamel.
Now that I’ve told you that you shouldn’t eat candy – I will acknowledge human nature, and tell you how to consume it thoughtfully so that you don’t ruin your teeth. At Anderson Dental Care, we try to educate everyone who walks in the door. Our loyal patients who come to our office in Cincinnati know how to take care of their teeth after consuming treats.
Some candies are worse than others.
Chocolate is probably your best bet, which is good because it’s also one of the most popular kinds of candy handed out during any holiday. Chocolate is one of the better candies because it washes off your teeth more quickly than other types of candy and doesn’t tend to get stuck in your teeth. Dark chocolate is an even better choice as it has less sugar than milk chocolate!
Sticky and Gummy Candies
Be picky if it’s sticky! This sticky category is a rough one. Sticky foods and candies are some of the worst foods for your teeth. This type of candy is harder to remove and may “stick around” longer on your teeth, which gives that cavity-causing bacteria more time to work. You also run the risk of pulling out fillings or crowns. One piece of sticky candy shouldn’t cause you trouble, but repeatedly eating sticky sweets will slowly break down the adhesive that holds a tooth filling in place.
Hard candies are also a candy category to consider carefully. They can break your teeth if you’re not careful! Does anyone remember jawbreakers candy? Just the name seems to be an invitation to see if you can break the candy without breaking your jaw. Jawbreakers should be called tooth breakers – they are a dentist’s worst nightmare.
Also, consider seemingly harmless hard candies like mints, hard caramel candies or lollipops – you tend to keep these kinds of sweets in your mouth for longer so that the candy breaks down. During that time, your saliva mixes with the sugar and gives your teeth a sugar bath.
Don’t’ be a sucker! Avoid that candy that makes you pucker. (thank you for indulging the pun).
Sour candy is an intense tooth offender – especially if it’s sticky and coated in sugar. I’m looking at you, sour patch kids. Sour candies are very acidic, and that acidity weakens and damages the hard outer shell of your teeth, making your teeth more vulnerable to cavities. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that plain sugar is consumed by bacteria that then produce acid that ruin your teeth. Acidic candy gets right down to business, destroying your teeth.
I don’t feel like I see as many popcorn balls these days. But, if popcorn is your thing, have some floss handy if you’re enjoying popcorn of any kind. Kernels can get stuck in-between your teeth, and if they are also sticky and sugary (think kettle corn), they can easily get left behind with just brushing.
Are you so impressed that this article wasn’t a petition to get rid of candy all-together?! Don’t worry. Your dentist is a real guy with four kids. I assure you, I get it; no one wants to hear that they have to ban candy forever. But perhaps I can help you choose candy with less risk, and highlight the necessary steps that can help you safely enjoy the candy you do eat.
Chocolate tends to be a better choice (as opposed to hard candy or chewy candy) because it rinses off your teeth much faster and doesn’t sit in the mouth as long as a hard candy does.
Still, if you choose to eat hard candy, you can minimize the impact on your oral health, by following these steps.
Candy Check List
- Eat candy in moderation. If you are going to have sticky and chewy candy, eat it with a meal instead of as a mid-day snack. Because your mouth has already produced more saliva during mealtime, eating candy with a meal helps prevent decay. The salvia fights the acid in your mouth and also helps flush out the sugar quicker.
- Don’t continuously eat sticky/chewy foods throughout the day (like cough drops). The sustained sugar and acid bath will quickly wear away the enamel on your teeth. Limit your exposure by eating the sticky item in one sitting.
- Rinse with, or drink water after you’ve eaten candy if you can’t floss after eating sticky foods. The water will help to balance your mouth’s PH and possibly remove some sticky leftovers.
- WAIT TO BRUSH! Don’t ever brush your teeth right after you’ve eaten. When you eat, sugar and acid start to make your enamel soft. If you brush right away, you are brushing your enamel right off. In about 30 minutes, your saliva will have helped your enamel to remineralize, and it’s safe to brush your teeth.
- Get travel floss. Next time you are at the drug store, grab an extra container of floss to keep in your bag for sticky emergencies.
Halloween Candy – tips and tricks
As for Halloween, as crazy as it may sound, my recommendation is to go trick-or-treating, let your kids eat as much candy as they can/want to in a certain amount of time (remember, eating it all at once is safer for teeth than spreading it out over hours and hours). Then you hide the candy away for another day. In our house, we dump it all in a bowl, set a timer, eat our candy, and then put it in a candy jar out of sight. Using this method, the candy from Halloween, Christmas, and Easter lasts us the entire year.
No matter your candy consuming frequency, remember to keep your routine dental appointments at Anderson Dental Care and maintain a solid oral care routine. If you have questions about candy or cavities, don’t hesitate to ask us or pop into our Cincinnati Dental Office.
Side note: People sometimes ask why our office doesn’t have a candy buy-back program (where kids bring in their candy and sell it to the dentist for a specific price per pound, then the dentist ships it to troops overseas). Here’s why: our troops already have limited access to oral health care and plenty of environmental factors putting stress on their teeth. The last thing (I feel) they need is a bunch of candy shipped to them to make their oral health matters worse. In my personal opinion, don’t think that buying candy off of children to “save” their teeth, then donating the same detrimental candy to someone else, is the right thing to do.
If you ever experience a filling falling out or a crown coming off, don’t hesitate to call Anderson Dental Care at (513) 817-0834 or book your appointment online here. We know it can be frustrating, but we are here to help.
And in case you avoid visits like this for fear of cost, you’ll be happy to know that we provide an affordable alternative to paying out of pocket or pricey dental insurance. With our PREMIER DENTAL CARE MEMBERSHIP, our members save 20% on dental procedures and get anywhere from 2-4 maintenance cleanings a year. Packages start at $31/month.