Eat Halloween Candy Without Destroying Your Teeth
Halloween candy can stay around for weeks after October 31st. Families keep leftover candy around the house, people bring it to work, and kids often eat treats from their Halloween candy stashes well into November.
It’s easy to snack on candy all day without realizing how much you’re eating. Unfortunately, all that sugar can wreak havoc on your teeth.
In this post, I’ll share a few tips for protecting your teeth this Halloween without giving up candy.
But first, let’s look at why sugar damages your teeth.
Why Is Sugar Bad for Your Teeth?
Most of us know Halloween candy isn’t good for us. Too much sugar hurts our bodies and there’s even some evidence to suggest excessive sugar can negatively affect brain function. It’s especially hard on teeth too.
No matter what you eat, your mouth produces plaque, a clear sticky substance containing bacteria and food, that can eventually turn into tartar. (Tartar is that gross, hard stuff the dentist has to scrape off your teeth when you come in for a cleaning.)
Plaque contains oral bacteria that feed on the sugars in your mouth after you eat. When the bacteria feed on sugars, they also make acids, which can eventually damage your tooth enamel, leaving your teeth vulnerable to tooth decay and cavities.
That’s why candy is generally considered worse for your teeth than less-sugary foods.
But don’t throw away those Hershey bars just yet. Here are a few tricks you can use to minimize sugar’s damaging effect on your teeth without giving up your favorite treats this Halloween.
Eat Your Halloween Candy All at Once
That’s right, as far as your oral health goes, it’s actually better to stuff your face with candy all at once than to snack slowly throughout the day. Check out my past blog post on the downsides of snacking in general for more info.
The problem with snacking on Halloween candy throughout the day is that you’re exposing your teeth to sugar all day long. The longer the sugar is sitting on your teeth, the more the bacteria in your mouth can eat the sugar and produce acid, which then greatly increases your chances of tooth damage and cavity formation.
Here’s my advice: eat candy in one sitting or right after meals. Then brush your teeth or rinse when you’re done to wash the sugar out of your mouth. If you’re at work or just don’t have your toothbrush with you, at least take a sip of water and swish it around in your mouth before you swallow.
Eat “Healthy” Candies
Is there such a thing as a “healthy” candy? Maybe not, but some kinds of candy are certainly better for your teeth than others.
Like gum, sticky, chewy candies that get stuck in your teeth are worse than hard candies, or ones you can chew up easily.
Basically, you don’t want candy hanging around in your mouth after you’re done eating for the same reason you don’t want to snack all day -- prolonged exposure to sugar will increase your risk of cavities.
So, if you eat these healthier candies all at once or after meals, you’ll definitely decrease your risk of cavities, but what about your kids?
Help Kids Eat Candy Healthily
If your kids go trick-or-treating, it’s hard to control what kinds of sweets the neighbors give out. But you may be able to encourage your kids to protect their teeth without taking away their hard-earned candy?
Here are a few suggestions. Maybe some of them will work for you!
Encourage kids to eat as much as they want on Halloween. Of course, you don’t want them getting sick, but letting your child eat plenty of candy right away leaves less for snacking later.
Trade with them. Try to find out which candies are your kids’ favorites. If you have a child who likes hard candies and Smarties, buy extra packets of those and offer to trade them for chewy candies.
Pack candy in school lunches. Including a few pieces of candy for an after-lunch treat encourages them to eat their sweets with meals. It also leaves less candy to munch on later during homework time.
Of course, teaching proper brushing and flossing techniques is one of the best things you can do for your children’s oral health, no matter what time of year it is.
Most of us have at least one favorite drink, snack, or treat that isn’t great for our teeth. If Halloween candy is one of yours, I hope this post gives you some tips for enjoying it with minimal damage to your teeth.
Have a great Halloween! And don't forget to schedule your child for a regular dental cleaning and exam.