Spooky decorations are going up in yards. Pumpkin-flavored products are taking over grocery-store shelves. And jack-o-lanterns are beginning to pop up on front porches. You know what that means. Halloween is just around the corner.
Every time you go to the grocery store, you’re likely faced with elaborate Halloween displays loaded with countless varieties of candy. Soon, you’ll be picking out a selection to hand out to those adorable little princesses, storm troopers, and witches who knock at your door on October 31st.
So does it actually matter what you buy? What is candy but a sugar-delivery system anyway? It actually does matter. Sugar, it turns out, is not the only factor in determining a candy’s effects on the teeth.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of popular candy types (and other Halloween treats you may encounter at parties and events) that have the potential to wreak havoc on your kids’ and your own oral health. Consider purging these from your little trick-or-treaters’ plastic pumpkins and when you’re at Kroger or Target picking out candy to purchase, pass them right on by.
And don’t worry, there are plenty of sweet treats that are A-OK for kids to consume. We’ve listed those too.
Especially in this candy-filled season, it’s important to take care of your family’s dental health. If you live in or around Louisville, KY, call 502-785-8695 to book an appointment at Natural Smiles.
- Candy Corn. Nothing epitomizes the season like these little tri-colored nuggets of sweetness. They may look harmless enough — and they are a beloved fall tradition — but candy corn are bad news for kids’ teeth. Chew on them, and bits remain stuck in the grooves of the teeth. This brings on a feeding frenzy of bacteria, which produce acids, which begin to eat away at the tooth enamel.
- Gummy Bears. And worms. And fish. Oh, and don’t forget those little packets of gummy “fruit snacks” masquerading as a healthy treat. You get the idea. Any sort of gummy or jelly candy, no matter how cute, is something that should be avoided. Why? Because they get lodged in the teeth and stay put, promoting bacterial growth and tooth decay.
- Popcorn Balls. These party treats have an old-fashioned appeal to them. Their popularity has waned since an early-20th-century heyday and that may be a good thing. Combine their sticky sweetness with popcorn, which has a unique talent for getting caught between the teeth, and you have a recipe for cavities. And if they become hard or stale, you have the added risk of breaking or chipping a tooth.
- Taffy. Sticky. Stretchy. Chewy. We’ve already gone into what this sort of texture does for your dental health, especially when combined with sugar. When you eat taffy, some will almost certainly remain behind in your teeth creating conditions ripe for bacteria proliferation.
- Caramel. Who doesn’t like ooey, gooey, decadent caramel? This popular filling is sugar that’s been melted down and cooked until it takes on a deep flavor and rich brown color. In fall, it takes on a special role as a coating for apples. But the texture that’s key to its appeal is what makes it so dangerous to oral health. It coats the teeth and is difficult to remove completely, which is an invitation for bacteria to multiply and create acids.
- Lollipops. Lollipops (or any hard candy) are damaging in two distinct ways. If you suck on them, they create a sugar/saliva solution that completely coats your mouth. (Hello, tooth decay!) If you are an impatient type who chews on your hard candy, you may end up chipping or cracking a tooth. (Hello, dental emergency!)
- Sour Candy. If you’ve been paying attention to this article, you’ve learned that acids produced by bacteria are what actually wear down the tooth enamel and lead to cavities and decay. Sour candies contain high levels of acids in addition to sugar. So not only do you have bacteria-produced acids, but you have acids in the candy that begin damaging the enamel immediately. Don’t even get us started on the sour gummy candy trend . . .
- Chewy Granola Bars. Here we have a sticky and sweet snack pretending to be a health food. Don’t be fooled! Chewy granola bars are packed with sugar and have a propensity for getting caught in the teeth.
So we’ve gone over what not to buy — what’s left? Chocolate is one of the better Halloween-candy choices. It contains sugar, but it rinses away fairly easily and doesn’t remain on the teeth. In fact, it’s believed to contain compounds that strengthen enamel and resist bacteria! Chocolate-covered peanut butter cups are also a good option — and one that kids love. You may even consider giving out sugarless gum. Chewing gum increases saliva production and helps keep the mouth clean.