It's almost Halloween. As each October creeps up on Cindy Flanagan, DDS, MAGD, spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry(AGD), her mind always wanders to the amount of sweets both children and adults will be consuming during the last few months of the year.
"Too many sweets can cause a spooky mouth," says Dr. Flanagan. "People have the tendency to graze on the sugary treats lying around the house during the holidays, and this increases the likelihood of cavities."
Dr. Flanagan knows that candy consumption is almost unavoidable at this time of the year, so she's offering some advice as to which sweets are less damaging to your teeth than others.
- Sugar-free lollipops and hard candies: These treats stimulate saliva, which prevents dry mouth. A dry mouth allows plaque to build up on teeth faster, leading to an increased risk of cavities.
- Sugar-free gum: Chewing gum can actually prevent cavities, not only because it helps to dislodge food particles from the teeth, but also because it increases saliva. Saliva works to neutralize the acids of the mouth and prevent tooth decay.
- Dark chocolate: Chocolates are loaded with sugar, but studies have shown that the antioxidants in dark chocolate can be good for the heart and may even lower blood pressure. Just be sure to eat it in moderation.
- Sugary snacks: Candy corn, cookies, and cake all contain a high amount of sugar, which can cause tooth decay.
- Chewy/sticky sweets: Gummy candies, taffy, and even dried fruit can be difficult for children and adults to resist, but they are a serious source of tooth decay, particularly when they get stuck in the crevices between teeth and make it nearly impossible for saliva to wash away.
- Sour candies: High acid levels in these treats can break down tooth enamel quickly. The good news: Saliva slowly helps to restore the natural balance of the acid in the mouth. Dr. Flanagan recommends that patients wait 30 minutes to brush their teeth after consuming acidic foods or drinks, otherwise they will be brushing acid onto more tooth surfaces, increasing the erosive action.
So this Halloween season, try not to overdo the sweets. And, that goes for the little ones, too. "Parents, remember: A proper oral hygiene routine for your little ghosts or goblins is essential to maintaining good oral health all year-round," says Dr. Flanagan.