Each year, Americans spend close to $9 billion on candy, and in October a lot of that candy will end up damaging the teeth of trick-or-treating children. You might be surprised to learn, however, that when it comes to causing cavities, not all candy is created equal.
“Cavities and tooth decay are caused by prolonged exposure to sugar,” says Ken Sutherland, DDS, a senior dental consultant for Delta Dental. “Parents can help their kids fight cavities by decreasing the amount of time sugar comes in contact with their teeth, as well as limiting the amount of candy they consume.”
Sugar has long been identified by oral health experts as a major cause of tooth decay and cavities. Naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar in candy and other foods and turn it into acid. This acid attacks tooth enamel and causes decay.
Sticky or chewy candies result in sugar being in contact with teeth for longer periods of time. When children chew sticky candies such as caramels or taffy, candy gets stuck on the surface and in between crevices. The longer the sugar is stuck to the teeth, the more time the bacteria have to feed on the candy and produce acid. The more acid is produced and the longer the amount of time the teeth are exposed to it, the more chance your child has of developing cavities.
Tips for limiting the effects of sugary treats
- Choose candy that can be eaten quickly and easily to limit the amount of time sugar is in contact with the teeth.
- Steer away from sticky candies like gummy fruit snacks, caramels, taffy, popcorn balls and other candies that expose the teeth to sugar for long periods of time.
- Limit consumption of sour candies that may contain acids (such as citric acid) to intensify the sour flavor. These acids can contribute to dental erosion and cavities.
- Encourage children to eat a small amount of candy in one sitting followed by a glass of water or a thorough tooth brushing.
- Encourage children to eat a good meal prior to trick-or-treating, so there will be less temptation to fill up on candy.
- Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
Halloween is a great time for parents to think about their children’s teeth, but oral health should be a year-round concern. Regularly encourage good oral health habits with your children, including flossing daily, brushing at least twice a day and visiting the dentist regularly. That way you’ll ensure the sugary villains don’t stick around on your children’s teeth long after Halloween is over.
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Information courtesy of the Delta Dental Plans Association