photo of kids at Halloween

Halloween candy: the good, the bad and the downright scary

October 23, 2013
photo of kids at Halloween

The Halloween be sure to choose the best candy options for the health of your teeth.

Sticky is good when it comes to Post-it notes but not such a good idea when selecting Halloween candy.

“Good candy doesn’t stick to teeth for a long period of time,” says Dr. Charles Wakefield, professor and director of the Advanced Education in General Dentistry program at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry. This would mean avoiding gooey treats like caramels, taffy and chewy fruit snacks.

“Good candy doesn’t contain acid, which erodes tooth enamel and hastens the decay process,” Wakefield continues. A few culprits to avoid include sour candies and citrus-flavored mints. Wakefield also cautions against consuming sodas and sports drinks year-round. These, too, are high in acid.

Of course, trick-or-treaters are going to consume some candy that is less-than ideal for the teeth. The impact can be startling: Candy and other sugary snacks cause acids to form in the mouth that can affect the teeth for at least 20 minutes after consumption. This acid attacks the outer layer of the tooth, creating cavity potential.

Since brushing or flossing isn’t always an option when on the trick-or-treating trail, sugar-free gum provides a good alternative. It can prevent cavities because it helps dislodge food from the teeth, and varieties containing xylitol are effective in combating bacteria and plaque.

Not all Halloween candy is bad for youngsters’ pearly whites. Chocolate — if it’s not surrounding sticky caramel — does not stay on the teeth. Sugar-free mints are one option, and dark chocolate can be included on the good candy list, because it’s high in antioxidants, which promote good health.

When purchasing candy for trick-or-treaters, keep in mind children don’t need jumbo packages.

“The small, bite-sized pieces of candy are best for dental and many other health reasons, considering the prevalence of diabetes and obesity,” advises Wakefield, who offers a final word of caution: “Remember, when you fall asleep, you stop making much saliva until morning. What is on your teeth when you go to sleep or have a midnight refrigerator snack remains on your teeth all night, and most foods can cause extensive decay and gum problems. Oral hygiene is the key!”

— LaDawn Brock

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