You don’t want to be that parent – you know, the one who doesn’t let their kids have candy, even at Halloween. And you don’t have to be.
Not all treats are terrible for teeth. Halloween treats are a big part of what makes this month so fun. Check our dentists’ recommendations so you know which treats are easiest on your children’s smiles. We’ve also included some advice for common-sense consumption. If you have any questions, call Carmichael Dental Care at 334-600-1423.
Sticky & Sour Halloween Treats Are Pretty Scary
Sugar doesn’t cause cavities, at least not directly. When the bacteria in your mouth consumes sugar, it forms acids that attack tooth enamel. Sticky candies like caramels and gummy bears adhere to teeth, which gives bacteria a better chance to turn them into the destructive acids. They also tend to get in between kids’ teeth, where it’s easy to miss them when brushing or flossing. Popcorn balls can be problematic; in addition to being sticky, they can contain kernels that can get stuck between teeth and/or cause other dental damage.
It’s a good idea to limit sour Halloween treats. Not only are they sugary, they are more acidic than most candies. In fact, your kids should wait about half an hour after eating them before brushing. If they brush any sooner than that, they’ll brush the acids into their enamel.
How Hard Candy Can Hurt Teeth
Hard candies like jawbreakers and suckers are tough on your kids’ teeth too. Since these candies stay in their mouths for extended periods, bacteria has more time to create the acids that cause cavities. In addition, kids can chip or even break teeth by crunching hard candy. Your kids should brush, or at least rinse their mouth with water, as soon as possible after eating a treat like a sucker.
Crackers Can Hurt Teeth Too
You may think Goldfish crackers, potato chips, or similar snacks are a better choice since they don’t contain as much sugar as candy. But they do contain lots of processed starch that bacteria will rapidly break down and turn into sugars. Not only that, but crumbs and other food debris tend to stay in your children’s mouths a long time. Children should brush, or at least rinse their mouth, after eating these kinds of snacks.
Chocolate & Sugarless Treats Are Among Best Choices
Chocolate is one of the best choices for Halloween treats. It melts away quickly when eaten, so bacteria doesn’t get much time to turn sugar into harmful acids. Dark chocolate is even better than milk chocolate. It has a high concentration of cacao, which is a good source of polyphenols, natural chemicals that can limit oral bacteria. The chemicals also neutralize microorganisms that cause bad breath and stop some bacteria from turning sugar and starches into acid. Researchers have even identified a compound called CBH that they think may be useful in fighting decay. Milk chocolate contains less cacao and has more sugar.
Sugarless hard candies and gum are good too, because they stimulate saliva production. Saliva washes away acids and bacteria, and it contains minerals that strengthen tooth enamel. The chewing motion your child uses for sugarless gum may even help dislodge food particles.
More Advice on Enjoying Halloween Treats
Here is some more advice from our dentists on Halloween treats:
- Enjoy treats in moderation. Don’t let them eat their whole haul at once. It’s best to limit candy consumption to no more than a few pieces at a time.
- Keep candy out of their reach. Keep candy in a cabinet or a similar spot so that your kids can’t easily reach it – or even see it. If they have to ask, you’ll have an easier time keeping track of how much they are eating.
- Sort through the stash together. Consider eliminating the treats that are especially hard on teeth – or at least making sure your kids aren’t eating too many of those.
- Make sure oral hygiene doesn’t suffer. If your kids are eating more sugary treats than usual, oral hygiene is especially important. If they don’t brush and floss every time they have candy, ask them to rinse their mouths with water.