With National Retail Federation (NRF) experts predicting Americans will spend more than $9 billion on Halloween candy and costumes this year, it’s inevitable that your child will be consuming more than one sugary treat. Lurie Children’s pediatric dentist Dr. Claire Sheehan, DDS, shares recommendations on how to best keep your child’s teeth healthy during the Halloween season and throughout the year.
If you are going to eat candy, is there a certain type of candy that is better for your teeth over others?
Yes! It is beneficial to avoid sour, sticky, and/or gummy candies. The sour candies can be high in acidity, which can erode your teeth. Often times, sticky and gummy candies will adhere to the grooves of your teeth, prolonging the time the sugar is present on your teeth. When this occurs, the bacteria in your mouth have a chance to enjoy the sugar as well, often times leading to cavities!
Chocolate types of candy, especially dark chocolate, are typically your best options! Chocolate candies wash away from your teeth quicker than those sticky and gummy candies.
Should you immediately brush your teeth after eating candy or is waiting to brush before bedtime ok? Is flossing just as important?
If you have access to a toothbrush, brushing immediately after eating candy is your best plan of action to help remove bacteria’s food source (sugar). However, if you do not have access to your toothbrush, drinking water will help rinse the sugar from your teeth.
Also, don’t forget to brush twice a day for two minutes each time! Flossing is equally as important to clean those areas between the teeth that the toothbrush cannot reach.
Can your teeth really rot/decay from eating too much candy?
Yes, your teeth can definitely rot/decay from eating too much candy. The key here is frequency! The more times you eat candy throughout the day, the more chances you give the bacteria to enjoy the sugar from the candy. If you are going to eat candy, do it with a meal and limit the amount. The saliva produced during mealtimes can help dilute the amount of sugar present. Try to avoid snacking on candy multiple times throughout the day.
How does sugar attack your teeth?
Sugar is a food source for bacteria. When the bacteria in our mouths eat sugar, its byproduct is acid. The acid produced during this process will eventually erode our enamel, leading to holes or cavities in our teeth. The more candy we eat, the more we put ourselves at risk of developing cavities. This is why we call bacteria: “sugar bugs.”
Does sugar affect the permanent teeth yet to come in for kids with their baby teeth?
Sugar does not directly affect the unerupted permanent teeth but having cavities in our baby teeth is a high risk factor for developing cavities in our permanent teeth. This is largely due to the child’s diet and oral hygiene. It is important to instill healthy eating habits and proper home care at a young age in order to prevent their permanent teeth from getting cavities.
When kids get home after trick-or-treating, try to sort through their candy together. Limit the amount of candy you keep in the house and the number of times the child has access to the candy. Additionally, consider donating the candy! Many dentists participate in candy buy back programs. Ask your dentist if they have a similar program.
Most importantly, do not forget to visit the dentist twice a year, unless otherwise instructed, in order to maintain the health of your teeth!