Candy vs. Teeth – Four Things to Keep in Mind When Eating Candy

Entry by Great Neck & Mid-Island Dental Associates pediatrics team – Dr. Sporn, Dr. Do, and Dr. Josen Halloween’s over. The costumes are packed away, the pumpkins puréed for Thanksgiving pies, and the ghost decorations removed from the front lawn. All that remains is…the CANDY!

If you’re like most families in America, you probably have at least one ‘treat’ bag filled with candy still lingering around from the kids trick or treating. Now what do you do with it? If you believe what your mother told you when you were ten years old, if you eat it your teeth will rot out, right? Well, in truth, there is some science behind that old wives tale.

Sugar Leads to Acid Erosion

When you eat candy, sugar is left behind on your teeth. Bacteria (a.k.a microorganisms) within your mouth feed on the left-behind sugar, and ultimately produce an acid that removes the mineral from your teeth and creates cavities.

Does that Mean I Can Never Eat Candy?

It’s unrealistic to ask children – and most adults – to stop eating candy altogether. While we do recommend eating snacks like fruits, nuts, seeds, and crackers most of the time – it is OK to eat candy in moderation.

To help guide you in the right direction, here are four tips to keep in mind when your kids are reaching for the candy bowl, or a Snickers bar is just calling out to you, Mom.

  • All at once or nothing at all – Believe it or not, it is better to eat a few small pieces or one regular-sized candy bar at one sitting versus a few bites throughout the day. Research shows that frequency of sugar consumption is the main problem in creating cavities. After you eat, saliva re-mineralizes the teeth – but it takes time. If you’re constantly recoating your teeth with sugar throughout the day, you’re not giving time for your teeth to get clean.
  • Select candy carefully – Knowing that it’s best to get the sugar off your teeth quickly, it’s important to select candy that doesn’t linger in your mouth. For example, lollipops stay in your mouth for 15 minutes at least. And chewy candy, like caramel or taffy, tends to stick to your teeth. Lastly, stay away from sour candy which can compound the decaying effects of acid. ‘Good’ candy will wash away easily with saliva – chocolate is great!
  • Give your saliva a hand – Of course, brushing your teeth after eating is always recommended. However, if a toothbrush is not handy, it is helpful to have a drink of water after eating candy to help wash away any left-behind pieces. Chewing sugar free gum also helps increase the saliva production in your mouth.
  • Be proactive with sealants – Even if you follow all the rules and your children brush and floss regularly, there is still one more step you can take to be proactive in preventing cavities. We recommend applying sealants to protect your children’s tooth surfaces that have grooves and pits – this is especially important for back teeth where most cavities in children occur. Food and bacteria accumulate in these grooves and pits, placing your child in danger of tooth decay. Sealants – made of clear or shaded resign – reduce the risk of cavities by creating a barrier against food and plaque. Sealant application is quick, comfortable and requires only one visit!

Ultimately, Halloween is one day of the year. It takes long-term exposure to sweets to cause chronic dental decay…and indulging on special occasions is part of childhood. With these four tips in mind, you and your family can enjoy a happy and health holiday season.

For more information on pediatric dentistry, and specifically sealants, call Great Neck & Mid-Island Dental Associates today and ask for Dr Sporn, Dr. Do, or Dr. Josen.