Tricks for Surviving Candy Treats

It’s about candy, candy, and more candy! It’s Halloween next Tuesday and since this holiday is specifically geared to putting your teeth in jeopardy, it’s time for me to tell you how to survive with little to no damage to your health – oral health that is.

“The bacteria in your mouth are probably more excited to eat Halloween candy than you are,” says the American Dental Association. “When the bacteria eat the sugar and leftover food in your mouth, a weak acid is produced. That acid is what can contribute to cavities.”

So, besides the usual advice, brush and floss, brush and floss, repeat daily, there are candies that actually are better for your teeth than others. Let’s check out the advice Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty, an ADA dentist has to offer:

“Chocolate is one of the better candies because it washes off your teeth easier than other types of candy,” Dr. Ferraz-Dougherty says. “Dark chocolate also has less sugar than milk chocolate.” Well, for a lot of you, I can stop right there. Any excuse to eat chocolate is a good excuse, right?

She continues by saying we should be picky when thinking about sticky or gummy candies. “This candy is harder to remove and may stay longer on your teeth, which gives that cavity-causing bacteria more time to work.”

Hard candies are double trouble. They can break your teeth if you bite on them. And, the longer the candy stays in your mouth, the more sugar is washing over your teeth.

Dr. Ferraz-Dougherty also warns about candies that make you pucker. “Sour candy can be very acidic and that acidity can weaken and damage the hard outer shell of your teeth, making your teeth more vulnerable to cavities. She also says that if you treat yourself with a popcorn ball, be sure to get those tacky, sugary kernels out from between your teeth as quickly as possible.

Instead of recommending that you stay away from candy, this week or any other week, I would rather give you tips on keeping your mouth healthy not just on Halloween, but year round. And, that advice starts with keeping your mouth as clean as possible.

Timing is important. The ADA says to eat candy and any sugary food with meals or shortly after meals. “Saliva production increases during meals. This helps cancel out acids produced by bacteria in your mouth and rinse away food particles.

“Chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals helps reduce tooth decay, because increased saliva flow helps wash out food and neutralize the acid produced by bacteria,” ADA says.

However, note that it is NOT a good idea to brush directly after eating. That just grinds all that sugar onto your teeth. Instead, rinse out your mouth with water and wait about a half hour and then you can brush for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste.

Be sure to replace your toothbrush every three or four months, sooner if the bristles are worn or frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t clean your teeth properly.

As for flossing, do it at least once a day, or especially after eating sticky candy or anything else that might get stuck between your teeth. Those leftovers are treats for bacteria and need to be removed.

The World Health Organization says that 60 to 90 percent of school children and nearly 100 percent of adults will have dental cavities, often leading to pain and discomfort.

“Oral health is essential to general health and quality of life. It is a state of being free from mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral infection and sores, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that limit an individual’s capacity in biting, chewing smiling, speaking, and psychosocial wellbeing,” WHO says.

I say make an appointment to see your dentist on a regular basis, keep your teeth clean and thoroughly enjoy Halloween candy next week and, if you have unopened candy that you don’t want, take it to the Food Bank for someone who didn’t get to go trick-or-treating.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Committee. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.