The weather’s made a turn for the cooler. Jack-o-lanterns grin and leer from porches everywhere. Grocery store shelves have been taken over by Halloween displays and pumpkin-flavored products.
And in just a couple of weeks, a bunch of lively kids dressed as princesses, monsters, heroes and heroines, dinosaurs, and animals of assorted species will ring your doorbell hoping for a sweet treat to go in their bag or plastic pumpkin.
You may assume that all candy is pretty much the same when it comes to its effects on oral health. It’s all sugar, after all, and isn’t that what rots the teeth? Well, sort of. Yes, sugar promotes the growth of harmful bacteria. But another factor to consider is how long the sugar stays in contact with the teeth. And that is the most important consideration when choosing candy to distribute to the children in your neighborhood.
It’s Halloween and they are going to consume some sugar. That’s okay. But if you buy the correct type of candy, you will be doing a good thing for the kids who come to your door on Halloween night. You do want to help protect those adorable smiles, right? Of course you do!
Is it time for your next checkup? Call Highland Advanced Dental Care of Highland Township, MI at248-329-3552.
What Not to Buy
Here are the sweets you shouldn’t even give a second glance when you peruse the Halloween displays at Meijer or Kroger.
Anything chewy, gooey, or gummy. Prime offenders are gummy bears, jelly beans, taffy, candy corn, or sweets containing caramel. And don’t think those popular gummy fruit “snacks,” roll-ups, or soft granola bars are any better. All of these things are packed with sugar and like to hang out in the nooks and grooves of the teeth long after kids have finished chewing them. And since they stick around, they provide nourishment for nasty bacteria. The microbes multiply, and while doing so, create acids that wear down the tooth enamel and lead to decay.
For whatever reason, kids seem to love extremely sour candies. These pucker-worthy treats combine sugar with high levels of acid. Just like the bacteria-created acids, the acids already in sour candy damage tooth enamel. Sometimes they are combined with a chewy texture, which is a double dose of bad.
Lollipops and other hard candies have the potential to harm kids teeth whether they bite them or suck on them. Did you know that when you bite a piece of hard candy, you may actually chip or crack a tooth? And a dental emergency never makes for a fun Halloween! When you suck on hard candy, your saliva mixes with the dissolved sugar and coats the teeth. And there it stays, a nice feast for decay-causing bacteria.
Better Choices for Oral Health
No, you don’t have to hand out carrot sticks to keep kids’ mouths healthy (although you can purchase individually wrapped packets of baby carrots, if you are so inclined). There are sweets that kids love and that won’t ruin their teeth.
Chocolate is something that everyone likes and that is totally fine to enjoy in moderation. Chocolate candy does contain sugar, of course, but because of its texture, the candy rinses away from the teeth quickly. This means the sugar doesn’t have time to linger and attract bacteria.
Chocolate may even have some benefits for dental health! Cocoa beans, which are the berries from which chocolate is made, are believed to contain compounds that protect the enamel from acid attacks (even better than fluoride) and keep away damaging bacteria. Of course, moderation is still important because we don’t know to what extent sugar counteracts those effects.
If you want to avoid purchasing treats made with sugar, candy or gum sweetened with xylitol are good options. These products may even be good for kids’ teeth. They are believed to reduce harmful acids in the mouth, plus they increase saliva production. This helps keeps the mouth clean between brushing.
Maybe you want to skip the sweet stuff altogether. Individually wrapped cheese sticks provide a dose of enamel-boosting calcium, and kids may welcome a break from the candy. Another option is the head to the dollar store and stock up on Halloween-themed pencils, erasers, and stickers.
Hopefully this guide will be helpful when you shop for your Halloween candy this year. And, of course, don’t neglect your own dental health. To book an appointment at Highland Advanced Dental Care, fill out our online form or call our Highland Township, MI office at 248-329-3552.