The National Retail Federation reports that Americans will spend $2.2 billion on Halloween candy this year. But it’s not just the kids who are noshing on these goodies. A Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey found that nearly 80 percent of parents admit to eating their children’s Halloween candy. The verdict? Lots of candy is being eaten by grown-ups and kids alike, and dental problems and emergencies will inevitably follow.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying Halloween candy, but what you enjoy can make all the difference between good and bad oral health. Tooth decay, naturally, is one of the first things that come to mind. Too much sugar and not enough brushing and flossing will certainly lead to cavities. But there are other side effects of candy eating.
Adults can destroy dental work like fillings and crowns with a chewy or sticky treat. And anyone can chip or break their teeth chomping down on hard candy. Kids who wear traditional metal braces can damage their wires and brackets if they indulge in the wrong sorts of sweets. If your teen is gearing up for orthodontics (or you, for that matter), talk to your dentist about eligibility for Invisalign – the aligners are removable so that the wearer can eat anything and put the aligners back in after eating and then cleaning their teeth.
What it comes down to is making smart decisions about eating Halloween candy. Here are other dos and don’ts for Halloween treats:
- Avoid sticky and chewy candy. Taffy, gummy bears, caramel, and the like cling to your teeth and take longer to get washed away by saliva, which increases the risk of tooth decay.
- Stick with chocolate and nix the hard candy. A 2013 National Confectioners Association survey found that 72 percent of Americans named chocolate as their favorite Halloween treat. That’s a good thing. Chocolate is one of the kindest candies for your teeth because it’s less likely to adhere to your enamel. Plus, it’s eaten quickly, unlike lollipops and hard candies which stay in your mouth for longer periods of time, guaranteeing that your teeth are getting a lengthy, unhealthy sugar bath.
- Chew gum. Chewing sugar-free gum after meals and snacks can help rinse your teeth and neutralize the acids released by the bacteria in plaque. The xylitol in sugar-free gum and the chewing action both aid in saliva production, which washes your teeth.
- Keep it clean. After eating candy, brush and floss your teeth. If that isn’t possible, at least rinse your mouth with water or chew gum.
- Pig out. If you’re trying to control your sweet tooth by indulging in sweets here and there throughout the day, that’s actually worse than pigging out on candy in one sitting. Snacking all day keeps your teeth consistently haunted by sugar and acids. Getting that sweet-eating done all at once limits how much exposure your teeth have to unhealthy components of candy (though neither option is all that good for your waistline!).
Get more Halloween candy-eating tips from the American Dental Association.