Kids, Halloween Candy, and Teeth

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To kids all over the United States, Halloween means one thing: candy. It gives parents nightmares and gives dentists the chills. Is there a way for kids to enjoy candy on Halloween without haunting visions of cavities rising like ghosts? The answer is yes!

How Candy Damages Teeth
Bacteria eats the sugar leftover in your kids’ mouths and then produces a weak acid. This weak acid is what causes cavities. The longer sugar stays in the mouth (think of sucking on hard, sugary candy all day long), the more cavities will develop. However, most dentists will tell you that it is okay for your kids to splurge on candy for Halloween if they brush twice a day and floss once a day for the rest of the year.  

Eating Candy Safely
Banning candy is just going to make your kids want it all the more, so your best bet is to let them eat the candy in a controlled environment. This means no carrying a stash back to their room or snacking on it all day long; instead, encourage them to eat it after a meal. If candy is eaten shortly after a meal, then the mouth has already been producing quite a bit of saliva. The saliva will cause the damage to be minimized because it washes away the sugar and dilutes the acids produced. In addition, some parents allow their children to eat all they can hold on Halloween (not to risk getting sick of course), then dispose of the rest of the candy so the temptation isn’t there.

Evil Candy?
When it comes to dental damage, not all candy is created equal. Below is a breakdown of which candy is the most villainous when it comes to dental health:

Sticky and gummy candy (taffy, gummy bears, gummy worms) hangs around in your mouth longer, making cavities far more likely
Hard candies don’t just cause cavities because of how long they take to dissolve, but they can also break teeth if your child tries to chew them too soon
Sour candy can be very destructive to your kid’s teeth because of its high acid content that can weaken the outer surface of teeth and make them more susceptible to the development of cavities
Popcorn balls are problematic not just because of their sugar content but because parts of the kernels tend to get stuck between the teeth
Believe it or not, chocolate is easier to wash away from your teeth than most types of candy, with dark chocolate containing less sugar than milk chocolate. Of all the types of candy your little Halloween monsters may want to consume, chocolate is easier on the teeth, relatively speaking.

Conclusion
Halloween doesn’t have to mean tooth damage if you control when your kids eat their candy, try to avoid the most problematic candies, and encourage them to practical dental hygiene all year long. If they take good care of their teeth the rest of the year, one candy splurge a year won’t destroy their teeth.

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Brett Murphey, D.D.S. - Woodlands Family Dental - Creekside Blogs: (3)
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