Teeth-Friendly Halloween Treats
Halloween is almost here, and even if you don’t have kids of your own, you will likely be buying candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters on Halloween night. So are all of these sugary treats the same, at least when it comes to their effect on oral health? Well, not really. Some sweets are worse for the teeth than others.
When you head to Target or Publix for your yearly candy run, consider sticking to treats that will do less damage to the mouths of the little ghosts and princesses who knock at your door. It takes no extra effort but may help kids stave off cavities and decay. And good dental health is something that will pay off for the rest of their lives.
If you live in the Clearwater, FL area, book your next checkup at Clearwater Dental Associates. Call 727-373-6628.
Sticky, Sweet, and Bad News for the Teeth
Kids just love gummy bears and worms, taffy, and caramels. But these treats — or anything sticky, gummy, or chewy — will find their way into the crevices and grooves of the teeth and be very difficult to remove. The sugar feeds bacteria, which multiply and give off acids that wear away the enamel.
Less obvious culprits are the gummy fruit “snacks” that come in individual pouches, chewy granola bars, fruit leather, and dried fruit. People seem to think these are healthier alternatives to candy, but, being sticky and sweet, they are just as harmful to dental health.
Don’t Be a Sucker for Lollipops
Lollipops and other types of hard candy are bad no matter how you choose to eat them. Chew on them, and you could actually crack or chip a tooth — ouch! Suck on them slowly, and you are essentially giving your teeth a sugar bath. The melted sugar combines with your saliva, creating a sweet coating that is difficult to remove completely. Cue the bacteria, the acids, and tooth decay.
Say “No” to Sour Candy
We’ve discussed how sugar harms the teeth: by providing nourishment for bacteria that proliferate and generate acids that destroy tooth enamel. Well, sour candies are very high in acids themselves. These acids go to work on the teeth directly, making sour candies doubly dangerous.
So What Are My Options?
Fortunately, you can still give the kids in your neighborhood a sweet treat without harming their oral health. Chocolate is an excellent Halloween treat. While it contains sugar, it melts away quickly and doesn’t linger on the teeth. (And who doesn’t like chocolate?) Just avoid chocolate products with caramel or other sticky or gooey fillings. Dark chocolate is especially good, as it has less sugar than milk chocolate. Chocolate bars with nuts are not only delicious, but provide an extra nutritional boost. Chocolate-covered peanut butter cups are another popular confection that won’t stick to the teeth.
While you should still practice moderation when eating chocolate due to the sugar content, there is evidence that it may be beneficial for the teeth. Cacao beans contain compounds that strengthen tooth enamel, possibly better than fluoride, and have antibacterial properties that help reduce decay.
Sugarless gum is a confection that’s great for dental health because it promotes saliva production in the mouth. This helps wash away bacteria and food particles and keep the mouth clean. Toss a pack of sugarless gum into kids’ Halloween bags, and it’s almost like giving them a toothbrush! (But way tastier.)
If you have your own kids who will be trick-or-treating this year, there are a few things you can do to make it a tooth-friendlier experience.
- Feed them a good meal beforehand so they don’t fill up on candy.
- Encourage them to drink lots of water — you may even want to send some for trick-or-treating.
- Purge their stash of the damaging candy listed above. You can toss it or even donate it to an organization. Of course, kids don’t like having treats taken away from them. It’s perfectly fine to “trade” the candy for whatever incentive works for your child (toy, money, etc.).
- Just because it’s Halloween doesn’t mean kids have to overindulge. Let them pick out a couple favorites to eat after trick-or-treating, then put away the rest for another time.
- As always, stay on top of their dental hygiene. After their final piece of candy is consumed, make sure your children brush and floss thoroughly.