The Spooky Truth About Halloween Candy


{We want your family to have a healthy AND sweet Halloween! Thanks to our friends at Nelson Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics for providing and sponsoring this handy post.}

candy-girlWith Halloween on the horizon, it may be common for some of our parental stomachs to turn when we think about the pounds of sugar our kids will come home with after a night of Trick-or-Treating. The tips below should keep you from getting too SPOOKED over the ensuing sugar high (at least from the dental perspective). 

Also, this is NOT meant to encourage candy gorging…but if your kids ARE going to have candy at their disposal, these tips can help limit the potential for cavity development. (Remember that last blog post I wrote encouraging you to continue your flossing practices? Please keep that in mind while reading this post, because proper oral hygiene is key to keeping your kids’ teeth healthy.)

1. It’s All About the Timing

If your kids are going to have a sweet treat, try to time it shortly after they finish a normal meal. Saliva production increases during mealtime and this natural saliva production can help wash away residual sugars left from candy, as well as aid in canceling out acid production that can lead to cavity development.

2. Type Does Matter

The best type of candy for your teeth (if we have to choose) is dark and milk chocolate. Yes, there are small amounts of calcium and iron in chocolate (SCORE!). Fun fact – chocolate also melts at body temperature and therefore will tend to dissipate from the mouth faster than other types of candy.  The worst types are those hard candies that linger in the mouth for long periods of time, AND sticky candies that tend to find their way into the deep pits and grooves of the teeth.

3. Wash it Down

A big swig of H2O is the best thing for washing down a sugary snack. Fluoridated water is best if it’s available. Try to stay away from sugary drinks – this includes more than just soda…sports drinks and fruit juices contain quite a bit of cavity-causing sugars, and the acid in diet sodas can make your teeth susceptible to erosion.

4. Chew on This

Obviously this one is patient (age) and parent dependent. Chewing gum after meals and desserts for about 20 minutes does help increase saliva production, which could help balance acids and wash away sugars left in the mouth from meals. Keep in mind that this is only helpful if it is sugar-free! Gum like Trident is not only sugar-free, but also has xylitol, which is a sweetener that has been shown to aid in protecting enamel (don’t overdo it with the xylitol though…too much has been shown to cause tummy distress).

5. Brush and Floss

Spoiler alert…the most important part of ensuring that cavities don’t pop up (this time of year or any) is to brush twice a day and floss at least once. If you have little ones, check their brushing and help them floss, especially if they’ve had a sugary treat.

One thing Dr. Nelson always reminds parents of is the fact that sweet treats are not the only cavity culprit…the frequency with which you eat plays an even bigger role than what you are putting in your mouth. If you or your kids are “grazers” who snack throughout the day, the chances of developing cavities is much greater. This is because the acids that are produced by the food you eat serve as the meal for those buggery bacteria that cause cavities. When you are constantly eating, the acidic environment in your mouth provides a happy place for these bacteria because they are constantly fed. Anything that is made up of sugars (i.e. carbohydrates like crackers, breads, cereals) can produce the same acids that candy produces. From a dental perspective, snacking on a bag of cheerios all morning long is equally as bad as snacking on a bag of fruit snacks, gummy bears, or Oreos. Again, that is speaking from an oral health perspective only…most of the candy the kids will come home with is devoid any true nutritional value.

halloween-candyTHE BIG PICTURE

The overall message here is to not get too hung up on the dental ramifications of Halloween candy, but try to encourage good practices like the ones listed above in order to protect the teeth as best as possible. We are always here to answer any questions that come up as you prepare for Halloween!

Nelson Pediatric Dentistry & OrthodonticsNelson Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics