If there’s a holiday that strikes fear into the hearts of dentists everywhere, it’s Halloween. Every October 31, children go from door to door, collecting handfuls of candy. Bowls of candy appear in offices. What happens next can spell disaster for teeth everywhere.
As you might know, sugar is one of the leading causes of tooth decay and cavities. And Halloween candy is chock-full of sugar. So whether you can’t resist a visit to the candy aisle every October or your children bring home pillowcases full of sweet treats on October 31, here’s what you can do to reduce your risk of tooth decay and keep your smile healthy.
Choose Your Candy Carefully
Although all types of Halloween candy contain sugar, which attracts the bacteria that cause cavities in your teeth, some types of candy are “better” for your teeth than others.
For example, sticky candies, like caramels, taffies, and Starbursts, tend to be the worst for your teeth. Since they are sticky, they tend to cling to the teeth, creating an ideal environment for decay-causing bacteria. Sticky candies can be tricky to remove even when you brush your teeth or floss.
Other bad options include hard candies, like lollipops, and candies that are coated into sugar crystals, like Sour Patch Kids. Sour candies are also on the acidic side, which can cause wear on the enamel.
Although it still contains sugar, dark chocolate tends to be a better pick for your teeth, as it doesn’t linger like sticky caramels or gummy candies and typically has less sugar than other options.
Timing is Everything
When you eat your Halloween candy can affect its ability to wreak havoc on your teeth. If you snack on sweets in the middle of the day, you’re giving the candy a chance to linger on your teeth and cause some real damage. It’s a better idea to eat a candy or two after a meal.
When you chew your food, your mouth produces saliva. That saliva helps to rinse food bits, including sugar, off of your teeth, reducing the risk of decay. The saliva can also rinse away acid produced by the bacteria on your teeth, further helping to protect your smile.
Keep Up an Oral Care Routine
Halloween is a great time to renew your commitment to taking care of your teeth and gums. Getting into the habit of properly cleaning your teeth at home can lower your risk for cavities and gum disease.
Remember to brush at least twice a day. It’s also a good idea to floss at least once per day. Flossing removes food and other particles that get trapped between your teeth. It can reach places that brushing doesn’t and is an important part of an oral care routine.
When You Can’t Brush . . .
You might not always be able to brush after having a piece of candy or another sweet. Your co-workers might have brought in candy to share or someone at your child’s school might have given you a chocolate bar to eat while you were waiting for the afternoon pick-up.
During times when you can’t brush, you can still take action to protect your teeth. Drinking water helps to rinse food pieces and bacteria away from the teeth, for example. Chewing sugar-free gum helps to increase saliva production, which rinses away bacteria and acids from the teeth. Water and gum aren’t replacements for brushing and flossing, but they work well in a pinch until you can get home to brush.
The arrival of a Halloween can be a great reminder that it’s time to see your dentist again for a cleaning and check-up. Your dentist can also answer any questions you have about Halloween candy and your dental health. Dr. Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area who can recommend dental care options that work for you and your needs. To schedule an appointment in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.