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Thursday, October 30, 2014

3 Tips to Trick-Or-Treat Tooth Smart

Dentist treating patient with gum disease
Since tomorrow is the biggest day of the year for collecting and devouring sweet treats, we thought we’d put together three tips to think about when it comes to buying and consuming candy this All Hallows’ Eve- and as long as that goody supply lasts for the days/weeks that follow:

  1. All candy is not created equal when it comes to dental health. Some versions of the sweet stuff are definitely better for your teeth than others. Dr. Cindy Flanagan, a dentist and spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry, has these recommendations when it comes to choosing which candy to eat:

The Good-

  • Sugar-free lollipops and hard candies. These types of treats leave out the offending sugar and also stimulate saliva production. Saliva is the body’s natural defense for rinsing your teeth, restoring the pH level of your mouth and remineralizing tooth enamel.

  • Sugar-free gum. The chewing action as well as the flavor of the gum also promotes saliva production, again, neutralizing acids in the mouth and helping to prevent tooth decay.

  • Dark Chocolate. Even though all chocolates have lots of sugar, dark chocolate is a good source of antioxidants, which have health benefits like increased heart health and lower blood pressure.

The Bad-

  • Sugary Candy. The classic example of why dentists everywhere cringe at the thought of a Halloween. A pillowcase full of candy bars, candy corn, licorice, Smarties, Tootsie Rolls, cookies and other traditional Halloween treats is loaded with sugar- a major promoter of cavities.

  • Chewy or Sticky Sweets. Taffy, gummies, and candies with tacky textures are some of the worst offenders for tooth decay. Their chewy consistency easily bonds to teeth, increasing the amount of the time the sugar is in contact with the tooth surfaces and also making it much more difficult for saliva or even water to wash away.

  • Sour Candies. Sour candy packs a double punch. Not only is it filled with sugar, but high acid levels in these goodies can also wreak havoc on the enamel of your teeth.

  1. Use Halloween as an opportunity to teach your children about the importance of good oral hygiene. With all the candy in sight, it’s the perfect chance to talk to your kids about the effects that foods high in sugar can have on their oral health. Explain that while sugary treats taste yummy, they are also a great source of nutrients for the bacteria in their mouth and can promote tooth decay. Eating treats should be followed by a drink of water to help rinse extra sticky bits away from teeth and to reduce sugars lingering in the mouth. And, your tooth-brushing routine should be extra vigilant when sweets are prevalent.

  1. Establish a “Treat Eating Time.” The worst Halloween habit for dental health is to snack continuously on candy. This creates a scenario in the mouth where teeth are constantly battling sugars and an acidic environment with no recovery time in between. Choose a time where treats are allowed. Close to a meal, such as right after dinner or right after lunch is a good pick because: 1. Little tummies will already be full of healthier food and 2. Increased saliva production during meal times makes the environment of the mouth better prepared to handle a sugar overload. Setting aside a certain time to eat Halloween loot protects the mouth from constant acid attacks. And, knowing that they have a specific “sweets time” can make children less inclined to think about chowing down on candy at other times of the day.

Remember these three tips as you are buying candy for trick-or-treaters, eating goodies and moderating the consumption of your kids’ Halloween spoils. They will help scare away cavities and keep your mouth looking and feeling healthy this spooky season! Happy Halloween from Brighter!