By: Loren Kalm for Dental1
Halloween is a time when children and parents alike consume bags of candy that cause cavities, lead to tooth decay, and ruin braces. Maybe this is why the American Association of Orthodontics lists October as the National Orthodontic Health Month.
Tooth decay is a progressive rotting of teeth that can lead to pain, tooth loss, and infection if left untreated. In the U.S., tooth decay is the most common childhood disease and is five times more prevalent than asthma. The decay itself is caused by bacteria, which feed on sugars leftover in the mouth. When the sugar content of the mouth increases, as from Halloween candy, these bacteria multiply and produce lactic acid as a byproduct that wears away tooth enamel.
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This disease often cannot be treated and tooth condition cannot be restored. For this reason, dentists highly advocate preventative care such as brushing, flossing, and fluoride to avoid tooth decay. Flossing is extremely important to the prevention of tooth decay as the spaces between teeth are highly susceptible to bacterial formation. A regular brushing and flossing regimen, while a necessary start, may not be enough to stop the deleterious effects of large amounts of candy.
There are many strategies in addition to brushing that can help both parents and children reduce the damage to their teeth during Halloween. Beware of the deceptiveness of “fun-size” miniature candy bars. Eating too many of these can end up being worse than eating one large piece of candy. Avoid “grazing” through them and set a limit on how many you or your children are going to eat in a day. Always drink water immediately after eating your candy to reduce the time that teeth are exposed to sugar.
There are also some candies that cause additional damage to the teeth that should be avoided. Candy that is hard or chewy is especially dangerous because it prolongs the exposure of sugar to the teeth. These candies can also cause additional damage to braces and fillings.
Sour candy is perhaps the most harmful of everything in your bag of treats. Often parents mistake this candy as better for teeth due to reduced sugar content, however, the acids that cause the sour taste are even more harmful to teeth than the sugar itself and can lead to a variety of oral health problems. Some dentists are even proposing that sour candies are given an FDA warning label, similar to the Surgeon General’s Warning on cigarette packages. If eating sour candy is unavoidable, dentists note that one should not brush their teeth immediately after consumption. This can actually brush away the enamel that has been softened from the acid. Instead, simply rinse the acids away with water.
This Halloween, and for the month of gorging afterwards, be sure that you and your children are protected from the dangers of tooth decay. Brush and floss regularly, know how much sugar you are eating, and stay away from sour candy.