Halloween is a magical time of the year, particularly for children or those of us who have children. Dressing up as something that you’re not, going to parties, trick or treating and spooky decorations–these are all the things that make this time of the year so special for so many. And let us be clear: by all means ensure that you and yours enjoy Halloween! However, your oral health will thank you if you remember a few basic tips for keeping this holiday safe and healthy for your teeth. Let’s talk about Halloween, which Halloween candies are the most and least damaging to your teeth, and some other ways that you can make this time of the year (reasonably) healthy for you and your kids.
The Most and Least Damaging Candies
While excess consumption of sweet foods is never good for your teeth, some candy is better than others, particularly when consumed in moderation. So whether you’re deciding which treats your own children get to have or which ones get handed out to trick or treaters, here are the best and worst of Halloween candies from an oral health point of view:
- Dark chocolate is an excellent choice if you must indulge a sweet tooth. Dark chocolate contains less sugar than other chocolates or candies, making it less like to damage teeth. It also contains a relatively high amount of healthy antioxidants, so in moderate consumption, it’s actually good for you!
- Sugar-free candy. While not the most popular option, it’s likely the healthiest and for obvious reasons: it doesn’t contain the sugars that fuel bacterial growth and thus potentially create cavities and other oral health issues. We’ll note that if you don’t tell your kids’ candy is sugar-free they may be more receptive to it.
- Candy bars with nuts can be surprisingly benign as Halloween treats. The nuts introduce at least some natural sugars–which tend to be healthier than their processed counterparts–and the crunchy nature of the nuts acts as a kind of toothbrush, scrubbing away debris and sugars from the teeth before they can cause problems.
- Sour candy may taste great to those of us who enjoy it, but it’s one of the worst things you can do to your teeth. In addition to the sugars which feed bacteria and cavities, sour candies are also extremely acidic as food goes. These acids can weaken the enamel exterior of the teeth and leave them prone to further damage.
- Sticky and chewy candies can wreak havoc on your teeth. Caramels, gummy candies, and the like all adhere to surfaces inside the mouth and provide a steady supply of food for bacteria. Difficult to remove without rigorous brushing and flossing, they can stick around for days and cause all sorts of problems for your teeth and gums.
- Hard candies in their various forms present a variety of risks to your teeth. They tend to stick around like sticky and chewy candies do, in part because they can be sticky themselves and in part because they take more time to consume and thus expose the teeth to sugars over a longer period. In addition, some folks–particularly children–may be tempted to chew on them. This can lead to tooth damage in the form of cracked or chipped teeth.
Enjoying Halloween, Safe and Healthy
So how can you make the best of the Halloween season, now that we know what we know about popular candies? Well, the first step is to make sure that you and the children in your life enjoy Halloween. It’s a fun holiday, and there’s no reason not to embrace all that comes with it. Just bear in mind that some candies are better than others, and you should choose your consumption accordingly. Likewise, Halloween candy shouldn’t be consumed in a day-long binge, but rationed over time; toward that end, most candies freeze well if you want to keep them for more than a few weeks. And as always you can take this as an opportunity to reinforce good brushing and flossing habits and a good diet with your little ones. Explain that candy is nice, but we also need to eat healthy foods every day. Tell them that while Halloween is fun, we need to be extra vigilant about brushing and flossing when we’re eating lots of sweet things. Temper the fun with safe and healthy practices, but by all means, have fun!
And on that note: Happy Halloween, from all of us at BlueWave Dentistry!