Happy Halloween! The Best and Worst Candy for Your Teeth
October is here and for the patients at our Denver pediatric dentistry office, that means one thing and one thing only: Halloween is coming! It seems like the stores have been stocked with ghouls, goblins and goodies for months now, but it’s officially time to find a costume and get your little ones ready for trick-or-treating. But before your kiddos go door-to-door with their masks and pillowcases, there are a few things to know about their favorite Halloween treats.
The doctors at Kids Mile High love Halloween (and candy!) as much as our little patients, but the sugary treats handed out at this time of year aren’t exactly good for our teeth. Excess sugars build up on the teeth, leading to an influx of harmful cavity-causing bacteria, so no sugar is always the best policy when it comes to our teeth. That said, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in the Halloween festivities and enjoying a special treat (or two…or three). Just be sure to brush and floss extra carefully!
Not all candies are created equally, though, and certain Halloween treats are better for your teeth than others. As you head into the Halloween season, here’s a handy list of the best and worst candy for your teeth so you can help your kiddos make informed decisions about what to eat.
The Worst Halloween Candy for Teeth
- Sticky and Chewy Candies
Jujubes, Tootsie Rolls, Gummy Bears, oh my! As a general rule of thumb, the stickier the candy, the worse it is for your teeth. That’s because these candies cling to your teeth, even after you’ve gobbled them up. The sticky sugars hang around, waiting for a chance to create a cavity. It’s especially important for kiddos with braces to avoid these types of Halloween treats. Sticky, chewy candies — like caramels and gummies — can get stuck in the brackets, making it difficult for your kids to properly clean their teeth and at times can break your appliances or remove brackets. That’s why it’s best to avoid sticky candies altogether this Halloween.
- Hard Candies & Lollipops
This one probably won’t come as a surprise, but hard candies and lollipops can be incredibly damaging to your teeth. Since they’re meant to be enjoyed slowly, these candies spend a lot more time in your mouth than treats you can chew, giving bacteria extra time to chow down on cavity-causing sugars. Hard candies also make it harder for your saliva to do its job of rinsing all the bad stuff away, so as far as your teeth are concerned, the worst candies are ones that take hours to consume. This Halloween, pick treats that can be eaten quickly and then be sure to brush your teeth right away to limit exposure to sugar.
- Sour Candies
Sour candies are always a favorite at Halloween, but they’re a lot more harmful to your teeth than you might realize. On top of a whack load of sugar, they also contain acid — that’s what creates that super satisfying, pucker-inducing sour taste — which contributes to the breakdown of tooth enamel. Like most things, sour candies won’t cause too much damage when consumed in moderation, but over time, they can have lasting effects on your teeth. If your kids love sour candies, try to limit their intake to only a few to reduce the potential for long-term damage and always rinse your mouth with water after enjoying the sour treats.
The Best Halloween Candy for Teeth
- Dark Chocolate
We’ve all been hearing about the health benefits of dark chocolate for years, and this applies as much to your teeth as it does to your overall health. Dark chocolate contains minimal sugar, is full of antioxidants and even has antibacterial properties that help fight plaque. The same can’t be said for milk or white chocolate, though, which are full of sugar and often contain unhealthy additives. Make sure to check your kids’ candy labels to make sure they’re getting the healthiest Halloween candies possible this year.
- Sugar-free Gummies and Candies
While regular gummies and hard candies are bad for your teeth, sugar-free versions can be a safer alternative. After all, sugar is the leading cause of cavities, so reducing sugar wherever possible is always a good thing. But that doesn’t mean sugar-free candies are healthy — they often contain harmful ingredients, like aspartame, to make up for the lack of sugar. They’re simply a better option for kiddos who love to munch on sticky candies at Halloween. Those with xylitol are the best since it has now been discovered that xylitol can help fight tooth decay.
- Candy with Nuts
While most candy bars are full of sugar and can’t be classified as good for you, many favorites contain nuts which can give otherwise unhealthy treats a helpful, healthy boost. Nuts add fiber and protein to candy bars, and they also help to break up the stickiness of the treat, making it harder for sugar to cling to your teeth. The only exception to this is those kiddos that are in braces, we discourage anything with nuts as they can also cause the brackets to come off or bend the wires causing an unexpected visit to the orthodontist. O’Henry, Snickers and many Dairy Milk flavors (like Fruit & Nut) are all classics, but there are plenty of healthier alternatives out there. KIND bars are the perfect store-bought solution or try this homemade chocolate bar recipe. That way, you’ll be sure to have a healthy Halloween candy for your kids to enjoy after a night of trick-or-treating.