‘Tis the season for little ghouls and goblins to tour the neighborhood, filling up buckets and bags (and maybe even the odd pillowcase) with candy. This is a fun family tradition, but it can be frighteningly bad for your smile!
If you plan to trick-or-treat this Halloween, here are a few ways to protect your teeth.
Stop the Plaque Attack
When you eat sweet treats, such as suckers and chocolate, your teeth are exposed to an “acid attack” that can last up to 20 minutes. This acid deposits bacteria on the teeth, which can lead to a build-up of plaque — a sticky accumulation of bacteria that ultimately causes tooth decay and leads to cavities. Compared to other foods, sticky candies help bacteria stay on the teeth much longer.
You can avoid the plaque attack by brushing your teeth as soon as possible after consuming hard candies, chocolate, or sticky candies. If you can’t brush, at least rinse your mouth with water. You can also try washing your candy down with some milk, as the calcium in dairy helps promote the production of saliva, which serves to neutralize the acid in your mouth. However, milk has natural sugar in it, too, so it’s best to brush if you can. You should also floss after you brush, as up to 40 percent of your tooth’s surface is located between your teeth.
Consider Non-Candy Treats
We all love candy, right? A little bit of candy in moderation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but an overload of sweets can hurt your smile. Consider replacing your candy dish with non-candy alternatives. Instead of candy bars, hand out stickers, apple slices, bubbles, temporary tattoos, fake mustaches, or miniature cans of play-doh. If you can’t resist the allure of sweet treats, you can even opt for sugar free gum.
As always, you should completely skip sugary drinks, such as soda and processed juices, such as juice pouches and boxes. These drinks deposit high amounts of cavity-causing sugar on your teeth. Beyond that, they are leading contributors to childhood obesity, and they can cause headaches, poor concentration, and irritability when consumed too often.
Protect Your Braces
If you wear braces, just say “boo!” to certain candies. Specifically, you should avoid anything sticky that can get stuck in your brackets or wires. Off-limits candies include taffy, popcorn, chewing gum, caramel, toffee, chocolate bars with nuts, suckers, licorice, and hard candy. Gummy bears, fruit snacks, and fruit roll-ups are also bad news for people who wear braces. Instead, go for the softer candies, such as peanut butter cups and regular chocolate bars.
In the days and weeks following Halloween, it’s easy to make frequent stops at the candy bowl. However, this can lead to bad habits that hurt your teeth. Too much candy not only hurts your diet and your overall health, it can lead to tooth decay and even slow down your orthodontic treatment. Avoid overindulging by parceling out candy once or twice a day. Many people find that it’s easier to avoid eating too much if they keep the candy out of sight.
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We hope you have a spooktacular Halloween! Current patients: Make sure to schedule your next appointment as soon as possible. If you’re a new patient, give us a call to learn more about our office and the services we offer. We serve patients in the greater San Diego region, including La Jolla, Carmel Valley, and Del Mar. Get in touch today to find out what we can do for you.