Halloween Candy Tips for Better Dental Health: Ask the Dentist With Dr. Clarke Woodruff

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It is that time of year again when children of all ages consume more candy than most times of the year. Yes, Halloween is upon us again. Here are some guidelines or suggestions to minimize the side effects of too much sticky, gooey, sweet candy.

candy-cornFirst, a little background as to why sweets are not the best for good dental health. Candy is very high in sugar and substances close to sugar, like high fructose corn syrup. There are naturally occurring bacteria that live in everybody’s mouth that absorb sugars. Once the bacteria soak up the sugar, they run it through their metabolic processes, similar to how we consume food and convert it to energy to sustain ourselves. After the bacteria use the sugar they then excrete the byproducts¸ like we excrete material after we eat. Those byproducts are acid; lactic acid to be precise. This process takes less than a minute. The bacteria clump together along with dead bacterial cells and food debris to form that soft white film we feel on our teeth. We call that fuzzy coating plaque. You know the feeling when you wake up in the morning and your teeth feel like they are all furry. If the plaque is sticking to our teeth, the bacteria in the plaque produce the acid that then starts to eat away at our teeth. So, every time we consume something with a lot of sugar, the result is a little acid bath for our teeth. Repeated acid exposure causes decay or holes in our teeth.

Now, some suggestions for minimizing the bad effects of too much Halloween candy.

  1. Avoid the sticky gooey types of candy, such as Twizzlers, caramel, toffee, Mike & Ike, Dots, licorice, Gummi Bears, Swedish Fish…I could go on and on. I think you get the idea.
  2. Candies that have a tart or sour flavor are a big NO-NO. The sour flavor comes from citric acid, and it becomes a double whammy acid bath. These types of candy include Starburst and Skittles.
  3. Just like everything in life, remember “all things in moderation.” Too much candy at one time isn’t a good idea.
  4. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER go to bed after eating candy and NOT brushing your teeth! All that sticky gooey stuff adheres to your teeth and your teeth get an all-night acid bath.
  5. Some candy is better than others, If you must have some candy, plain chocolate or chocolate with nuts are not too bad. Hershey, Ghirardelli…you pick the brand.
  6. If you cannot brush after eating some candy, a good rinse with water would help.
  7. Some alternative sweeteners can do some good. Sugarless gum or hard candies sweetened with xylitol can be beneficial. Xylitol stimulates saliva, which helps wash away the acid and neutralize the acid. For the chemistry geeks, saliva is a buffer.

I hope this helps. Remember that there is no substitute for regular dental care. I do not care how good you think you are at brushing. We all need to see a dentist regularly.

Clarke WoodruffClarke Woodruff, D.M.D., has lived and worked in the Lehigh Valley most of his life. He left the region to complete dental school in Philadelphia and to serve four years as an officer/dentist in the U.S. Air Force. A member of Freedom High School’s first graduating class, Dr. Woodruff earned his undergraduate degree from Lehigh University. He received his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree (D.M.D.) from the University of Pennsylvania in 1976 and opened his Hellertown dental practice at 800 Main Street, Suite 102, in 1980. He was named a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry in 1987, after successfully completing a comprehensive examination and more than 500 hours of continuing education. Dr. Woodruff maintains active membership in the American Dental Association, Pennsylvania Dental Association, Lehigh Valley Dental Society and American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. In addition to his private practice, Dr. Woodruff is devoted to the education of tomorrow’s dentists and as such is currently chair of the Department of Dental Medicine, Lehigh Valley Health Network. His outside interests include vintage race cars, woodworking and singing. Find him onFacebook and check out the blog on his website, here. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 610-838-6597 or contact him via email.

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