With just a day or so until Halloween there’s a mad dash to complete last-minute tasks, finish the costumes, and of course, buy the candy for trick-or-treaters on sale. Halloween is a fun time for little ghosts and ghouls, but the effects of this holiday on your dental health can be terrifying.
Finding Tooth Friendly Treats
An article from Parenting.com outlines the best and worst candies for your teeth. The candy that can wreak the most havoc on your dental health are taffies, caramels, and nut or coconut-filled confections. Why? These sweets are filled with high levels of sugar and can get stuck between your teeth and around your gums. They are also in your mouth for a longer period, which gives cavity-causing bacteria time to grow and feed on the excess sugar.
Sour and hard candies such as jaw breakers, lollipops, Pixie Stix, and Jolly Ranchers have scary effects on teeth for a number or reasons. One is they take a longer time to dissolve, coating the mouth with sugar, and generating more acid in saliva, which ultimately wears away tooth enamel and can lead to cavities. Another detrimental property of especially sour candy, is its already high acid content. This high acid content combined with straight sugar actually changes the PH balance in your mouth and gives bacteria the best treat of the day. Millions of bacteria feeding on your teeth is its own horror movie.
Chocolate, with soft, but not sticky fillings is actually a better option when it comes to candy. These sweets generally don’t stick to teeth the way sugary, sticky treats will and are less likely to cause cavities when consumed in moderation.
The best option for your teeth is to find the sugar-free gum in your Halloween treats. Chewing sugar-free gum doesn’t leave residue on your teeth and won’t coat your mouth with sticky sugar as it is naturally sweetened with xylitol. This natural sweetener is not liked by bacteria and inhibits the growth of plaque.
After your kids eat sugary sweets, encourage them to brush their teeth thoroughly. This will remove a majority of the acids and bacteria that would otherwise enjoy a tasty feast on the sugar.
Related: Halloween Smile Savers-October 2013
Why Chewing Sugar-Free Gum is a Good Idea
For National Dental Hygiene Month, the final topic is chewing sugar-free gum because of its numerous oral health benefits. In an independent study funded by Wrigley’s Oral Healthcare Program it was found that chewing sugar-free gum stimulated saliva flow, reduced plaque, neutralized acids, remineralizes enamel, cleans the mouth of food when done after eating, and relieves dry mouth discomfort. We know that improving saliva flow is important in breaking down food particles and neutralizing plaque building bacteria in the mouth, but what is so important about dry mouth discomfort?
Dry mouth is more than just having difficulty swallowing. It can also have negative effects such as increased risk of tooth decay, irritation of the tongue, and gum disease. Chewing sugar-free gum and stimulating that saliva flow decreases tooth decay risk by 40% after eating and eases the negative effects of dry mouth.
A word of caution from dentists when it comes to chewing sugar-free gum is for those who suffer from TMJ overuse and headaches. Chewing gum can intensify these symptoms, so patients with these signs should talk with their doctor before partaking in this activity.
For more information and resources regarding National Dental Hygiene Month or chewing gum, visit http://www.adha.org/national-dental-hygiene-month.