Health Buzz: Worst Halloween Candies for Teeth

Boys in Halloween costumes eat candy on a porch.

Watch out for these three candies. (GETTY IMAGES)

Oh, Halloween – that time-honored holiday complete with enough candy to last a year. But the spookiest scare of Oct. 31 isn’t ghosts or goblins – it’s tooth decay.

To get the lowdown on just how scary those sugary treats are for kid and grownup teeth alike, U.S. News spoke with Dr. Ruchi Sahota, a Fremont, California-based dentist and spokeswoman for the American Dental Association. Here, she details the three biggest candy threats to pearly whites:

  • Sticky or gummy candy. That delightfully chewy quality? It’s also the downfall of these sweets, which seem to cling to teeth longer than other varieties, Sahota says. And the longer candy sticks to teeth, the bigger the risk of cavities, she adds.
  • Hard candy. Typically, this type of candy lingers … and lingers … in your mouth, meaning potentially hazardous consequences. “Instead of the saliva having an opportunity to wash the teeth as much as possible, the hard candy makes the sugar stay in your mouth for longer and that exposes the teeth to the sugar for longer, not allowing saliva to do its job,” she says.
  • Sour candy. The acidity of sour candy can weaken weaken tooth enamel, making your teeth more prone to decay, Sahota says.

To better explain cavities, Sahota likened teeth to apples. A tooth has a thin enamel shell like the peel of an apple; it has a core of dentin like an apple’s core; and a middle nerve like the apple’s fruity pulp. If you get to a rotten apple early, only the peel may show signs of decay. If you don’t get to it quickly enough, the rot could have penetrated the core. As in, once a cavity gets to the core or nerve of a tooth, that’s when you need a root canal.

Still, Sahota insists she’s not a killjoy: You can have your candy – and eat it too.

For example, chocolate – dark chocolate in particular – is a safer alternative, “because it can more easily be washed away with saliva,” she says.

Cavities aren’t just a problem on Halloween, of course. Tooth decay is four times more prevalent than asthma in 14- to 17-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Halloween, and year-round, prevention is simple, and starts with good oral-care habits, like regular brushing and flossing.

Long story short: Reach for sweets that aren’t as hard on teeth, and take care to brush those chompers after raiding your Halloween candy stash.

By David Oliver

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