Most of us parents monitor our children’s sugar intake year round, but Halloween is the one time of year when the rules of dental care are often broken. The endless candy from trick-or-treating can wreak havoc on teeth, so when a dentist tells parents their children’s teeth show signs of decay it obviously comes as an unpleasant surprise.
Tooth decay is caused by frequent exposure to foods containing carbohydrates (starches and sugars), which mixes with the mouth’s natural bacteria to form a mild acid that erodes tooth enamel. Common culprits are soda pop, candy, ice cream, milk, and cakes. Therefore, Halloween candy is public enemy #1 when it comes to teeth.
ChicagoHealers.com Practitioner, Dr. Raymond Hatland, DDS, provides some tips to help prevent teeth from the harmful effects of sugar this Halloween:
- Be a label snob. Read food labels carefully to identify sugars, which also come in the form of corn syrup, molasses, dextrose, fructose, glucose, sucrose and honey. Even an innocent breath mint can be made of pure sugar that can cause cavities.
- Wash it down. When eating Halloween candy, make sure to finish it off with a big glass of water, which will clean sugar residue off the teeth.
- Avoid sticky situations. When satisfying your candy cravings keep in mind that sticky sweets like toffee or hard candy that linger in your mouth compound the effects of sugar by offering a sustained food source for bacteria. Remember that it’s not necessarily the amount of sugar that can cause decay, but how long the candy stays in the mouth, which is why hard candies like suckers or sticky treats such as caramels and jujubes are poor choices from a dental perspective.
- Chocolate lovers rejoice. If trying to rationalize a chocolate craving, remember that popping a piece of solid chocolate in your mouth is better than choosing one filled with a gooey center, as the candy filling may stick to the teeth and provide a longer lasting food source for the natural bacteria to feed from in the mouth.
- Mind your whole body. Halloween comes but once a year, but even several days of excess sugar can wreak havoc not just on your teeth, but elsewhere in the body too. Too much sweet stuff can cause blood sugar to spike and cause an energy crash later on. Look after your dental and general health by regularly reading all the ingredients in all packaged foods before you buy them and seeking out low-sugar alternatives.
If possible, rinse your mouth with water and brush your teeth thoroughly after exposure to sugars. If you can’t do that right away, keep a supply of sugar free gum with xylitol on hand to help cleanse your mouth. This way you can enjoy Halloween without the scary cavities.
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