We love the costumes, the decorations, and the local events, but we’re a little wary of all that candy. Sugar isn’t just tasty to us; the harmful bacteria in our mouths love it. If you want to make Halloween a little healthier for your teeth, here’s a handy breakdown of how different types of treats and candies rank in terms of promoting good dental health.
Anything hard, sticky, or sour is going to be bad for your teeth. Hard candy takes a while to dissolve, which means your teeth are exposed to sugar for a long time. Sticky candy is like breakfast in bed for bacteria, adhering to the teeth and pushing the sugar right up against the enamel and gum tissue. Sour candy contains acid as well as sugar, so it’s doubly bad for teeth.
Not all candy is awful for oral health. Some is actually pretty healthy. If you’re a fan of candy bars, aim for the types with plenty of nuts (assuming you don’t have a nut allergy or an orthodontic appliance). The nuts break up the stickiness and sugar of all the caramel and nougat, and they contain important nutrients.
Chocolate is on the good end of the oral health spectrum, and the darker, the better. Chocolate contains flavanoids and polyphenols, compounds that limit oral bacteria, fight bad breath, and slow tooth decay. Dark chocolate has more of these compounds and their benefits are less offset by sugar than in sweeter milk chocolate.
The best candy option for your teeth, unsurprisingly, is sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol. Other types of candy that use xylitol aren’t very common (yet), so you might not find much of it, but xylitol gum is a great sweet treat to aim for when trick-or-treating. Xylitol not only doesn’t feed oral bacteria, it actually hurts it!
Aside from avoiding the more harmful candies in favor of dark chocolate, candy bars, and xylitol gum, there are other ways we can combat the effects sugar has on our teeth:
Being careful about which candy you eat and when, rinsing with water, and maintaining good daily brushing and flossing habits are all great, but don’t forget about the best resource you have: the dentist! Schedule a cleaning appointment in early November to make sure Halloween hasn’t had a lasting effect on your teeth, or schedule one in October to get ahead of the game!