With Trick-or-Treating and Halloween parades occurring in our area, mountains of sugary candy are filling plastic pumpkins and spooky-looking reusable bags. But not all Halloween candy is created equal when it comes to your teeth.
Recently we saw a new patient who had a problem with getting food caught between two teeth. An oral exam revealed a small hole on one tooth, but there was evidence that there could be a more serious problem: bigger decay. So, we made a radiographic image–an X-ray–of the area and found several other cavities in the same section.
Then the alarms began going off in my head, telling me we had better take a more careful look. We then completed a full examination including X-ray pictures and found 13 other cavities! At that point the alarms were really going off. We needed to know what the origin of all this decay was in a relatively young patient. Sure enough, there was a very good reason for it: sweet and sour candy. The candy this person loved to eat was full of sugar and citric acid to make it sour. The acid from the candy was the real culprit. The citric acid literally dissolved the teeth and the sugar fed the bacteria on her teeth, which created more acid. The net result was 14 cavities. Fortunately, we can treat all of them, and we caught them early, before major treatment such as root canals was necessary.
What saved this patient? Her own dental awareness was what made the difference. It made her get something checked out as soon as it was evident. What are the lessons? The lessons are to get professional advice as soon as possible, and to limit your consumption of this dentally dangerous type of candy if possible. Doing both will save you money in the long run.
The treatment for this patient was to remove the decay and place tooth-colored fillings where it was, to administer aggressive fluoride therapy that made her weakened teeth stronger and to undergo serious dietary counseling to help eliminate the craving for sweet and sour candy.
This Halloween season and all year-round, my strong advice when it comes to candy is similar to the old expression of “everything in moderation.” Too much of any one thing is not good. If you have a sweet tooth, be honest with yourself and be kind to your teeth. Limit the amount of candy you eat and brush your teeth after eating it. Be especially careful with any candy that has a sour taste, because that means it contains citric acid and could cause more decay. A piece of plain chocolate is probably the best choice.
Clarke Woodruff, DMD, 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 St., 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 on Facebook 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.