Halloween is a holiday known for many things. Hayrides, costumes, and scary movies aside, Halloween is best known for an overabundance of candy. As a child, few things top emptying out a large pillowcase at the end of a successful night of trick-or-treating and watching copious amounts of sweets and treats cascade onto the floor. While this is an exciting time for kids, dentists often have mixed feelings about this annual sugar-laden celebration.
Candy Is Okay to Eat
Let’s set the record straight — every health professional, including your local dentist, wants their patients to consume healthy food options. With that being said, eating candy on occasion is not bad; in fact, most dentists expect that their patients will be partaking in one of Halloween’s most popular traditions. As long as patients are keeping up with twice-daily brushing and flossing and are seeing their dentists regularly, there is no need to deny oneself candy on Halloween. However, the choice of candy matters in regards to the health of your teeth.
In terms what the best choice of candy is for overall oral health, chocolate reigns supreme. This is beneficial considering that it is the most popular kind of candy to be distributed on Halloween. Dentists note the ease in which chocolate washes off of the teeth as one of the main reasons why chocolate is the best choice. Further, dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate and is, by far, the best choice one can make if they are concerned with their oral health on Halloween.
Preferably sweetened with Xylitol, which can help prevent cavities, sugar-free gum is another favorite among dentists. Chewing on a piece of sugar-free gym after indulging in other Halloween treats will increase the mouth’s flow of saliva; this, in turn, prevents the formation of cavities.
Sticky or Gummy Candy
While likely obvious, sticky candy or candy this is described as “gummy,” is one of the worst Halloween candy choices. Due to its sticky nature, this candy category is hard to remove from the teeth. This results in the candy staying on the teeth longer, which causes cavity-building bacteria to form. Sometimes a candy’s “stickiness” is not overly noticeable. Be on the lookout for chocolates that are coated or filled with caramel or toffee as caramel and toffee fall under this category as well.
Hard candy is generally best avoided, especially if children are younger. Choking hazards aside, hard candy can break teeth. While adults know to suck on hard candy, many kids will bite down without realizing just how hard the candy is and can easily break, crack, or chip a tooth. However, sucking on hard candy is not necessarily a better option. If someone opts to suck on a piece of hard candy, this means that the candy is in one’s mouth longer. Saliva
then mixes with the candy’s sugar and coats all of the hard-candy-lover’s teeth with said sugar.
While popular, sour candy is another candy worth avoiding. Due to its acidic nature, sour candy can weaken the outer shell of the teeth, which makes teeth more susceptible to cavities.
Popcorn balls are not the worst, but they are also not the best. Aside from the fact that most are typically sticky, hard, and sugary, the kernels can become embedded in-between your teeth. If you plan on indulging in a popcorn ball, have some floss on hand.
A good way to ensure peace of mind following an indulgent Halloween evening is to make an appointment with your dentist for a cleaning. If you have leftover popcorn kernels stuck in your teeth or find yourself unable to remove the sticky coating of a caramel apple from a back molar, your dentist can dive into those hard-to-reach places.
Halloween does not have to be filled with vegetable sticks and green juices. As long as you engage in good, daily oral hygiene habits and see your dentist for cleanings every six months, candy can be a welcome, occasional addition to an overall healthy lifestyle. As always, be sure that any candy you or your children do consume is sealed and has not been opened or tampered with.