We can pretend that Halloween candy is just for kids, but let’s be honest — who can resist the appeal of those orange-and-black displays stuffed with huge bags of your favorite candies in miniature? They show up in bowls and plastic pumpkins on your coworkers’ desks, and if you live in a neighborhood where trick-or-treaters roam, there will be a big bowl of candy waiting by the door… and leftovers to finish off come November. (And let’s not even talk about the post-Halloween sales!)
You may not be going door-to-door, but October means that you’ll probably still be eating more candy than usual. So what does all this mean for your teeth?
Candy Creates Cavity Risk
It’s common knowledge that candy is bad for your teeth, but you may not know exactly why. The sugar in candy doesn’t directly cause cavities, but the harmful bacteria in your mouth love sugar, so when you feed them, they go nuts. Those bacteria create acid, which in turn erodes your enamel so the bacteria can get a foothold for infection.
Of course, our body has natural defenses to try and prevent cavities. One of them is saliva, which acts as a sort of a continuous mouthwash, sweeping bacteria and food debris away from your teeth. But saliva can only do so much, particularly against sticky candies like taffy or caramel. And acidic candies like sour gummy worms can contribute to that enamel damage, too.
If you’ve had dental restoration work done, candy could pose an even greater risk. For example, hard candies like peanut brittle could chip a dental crown or bridge, and sticky candies might pull restorations away from your teeth just enough to create an entry path for bacteria.
Keeping Teeth Safe at Halloween
Of course, the safest course of action would be to not eat any candy at all… but not all of us have that kind of willpower! If you want to indulge this October without risking your oral health, here are a few tips.
- Eat healthier candy. Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and is said to benefit everything from your heart to your brain — and yes, even your teeth (although there’s still disagreement on that one.) If you’re the type to crave chocolate, darker varieties can ensure that your snacking is guilt-free (or, at least, misdemeanor-level guilty).
- Make your own treats. Rather than buying sugar-packed candy bars, make your own Halloween sweets so you can keep an eye on exactly what goes into them.
- Practice excellent oral hygiene. You should already be brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily to ensure that you don’t let plaque build up and harden into tartar on your teeth — because at that point, only your dentist can remove it at your regular cleanings. But during Halloween month, it might benefit you to tuck a toothbrush into your laptop bag or purse so you can brush after eating candy.