Little ghosts and goblins will trick-or-treat to collect as much candy as they can this Halloween, but it's not just kids who will enjoy the treats. Nearly 80 percent of parents admit they eat their children's Halloween candy, according to the Delta Dental Children's Oral Health Survey.1 But some candies have the potential to do more damage to teeth than others.
"Choose candy that melts and disappears quickly," said George A. Levicki, DDS, president & CEO, Delta Dental of Virginia. "The longer teeth are exposed to sugar, the longer bacteria can feed on it, which could produce cavity-causing acid."
Dr. Levicki says the best way to protect teeth from decay is to have candy in small portions at limited times, such as after a meal, as dessert or at regular snack times. Nearly 90 percent of parents say their kids consume Halloween candy this way.
"It's best to avoid letting kids snack on candy throughout the day," said Dr. Levicki, "and it's extremely important kids brush their teeth or at least rinse with water after eating sweets. Remember that high sugar diets are detrimental to oral and overall health."
While no sweets are good for teeth, some are less harmful than others. Delta Dental rates the best and worst treats for teeth on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being least harmful.
Sugar-free candy and gum with xylitol Sugar-free foods don't contain sugar that can feed on the bacteria in the mouth and produce decay-causing acids. Gum and candy with xylitol may actually protect teeth by reducing the acids produced by bacteria and increasing saliva to rinse away excess sugars and acids.
• Delta Dental's survey says 44 percent of kids eat sugar-free candy at Halloween.
Powdery candy (such as sugar straws) Sure, powdery candy is packed with pure sugar. But powdery candy dissolves quickly and doesn't stick to the teeth.
Chocolate (such as candy bars) Chocolate dissolves quickly in the mouth and can be eaten easily, which decreases the amount of time sugar stays in contact with teeth. And calcium could help protect tooth enamel. However, chocolate with fillings, such as caramel and nuts, is a lot more harmful for teeth than the plain variety.
• Delta Dental's survey says 86 percent of kids eat chocolate at Halloween.
Hard candy (such as lollipops or mints) Hard candy is tough on teeth because it tends to be sucked on at a leisurely pace for an extended period of time. Plus, chomping down on hard candy can chip or break teeth.
• Delta Dental's survey says 50 percent of kids eat hard candy at Halloween.
Chewy candy (such as caramels or gummies) Chewy, sticky treats are particularly damaging because they are high in sugar, spend a prolonged amount of time stuck to teeth and are more difficult for saliva to break down.
• Delta Dental's survey says 57 percent of kids eat chewy candy at Halloween.
"Another way to protect teeth is to give kids something other than candy," Dr. Levicki said. Nearly 25 percent of parents hand out non-candy items to trick-or-treaters, such as toys, money or fruit.
For additional tips on how to help keep children's teeth healthy during Halloween and all year long, visit the Tooth Fairy's Halloween website at http://www.toothfairytrickytreats.com.