Have you noticed jack-o-lanterns appearing on neighborhood porches and spooky decorations popping up in front yards? Halloween is almost here and — whether you have young kids of your own or not — a parade of little ghosts, monsters, princesses, and superheroes will soon be knocking at your door.
You may wonder if it even matters what sort of sweet treats you toss into those bags and plastic pumpkins on Halloween night. After all, candy is candy, right?
Actually, all sweets are not created equal when it comes to how they harm kids’ (or anyone’s) teeth. While all candy requires control and moderation when you eat it, some types should be avoided altogether: passed up in the candy aisle and purged from your kids’ stashes. That may seem harsh, but don’t worry, there are plenty of better choices that are just as delicious. (Chocolate, anyone?)
Here is a guide to the best and worst Halloween confections for dental health. Use it as your candy-buying guide this year, and to assist your children in deciding what to keep and what to discard.
Marineland Dental of Kennewick, WA is here for all of your dental needs. To make an appointment, call us at 509-591-0515.
The Bad Guys
There are many types of common Halloween candies that just aren’t worth taking the risk with your own kids’ and neighborhood kids’ teeth. The basic rule of thumb is that the longer a confection exposes the teeth to sugar, the more damage it will do. So you want things that don’t stick around in the mouth.
- If a candy is sweet, sticky, gooey, or gummy, don’t give it a second glance in the candy aisle. Walk right on by. Examples include gummy bears, taffy, Starburst-type candies, and anything with caramel. Gummy fruit snacks, fruit roll-ups, and soft granola bars fit into this category as well. Dried fruit has one redeeming quality in that it contains some nutrients, but when it comes to your teeth, it’s just as bad as a gummy worm. So don’t hand out boxes of raisins.
- Hard candies like lollipops are problematic as well. Some people like to crunch down and chew on them, and this puts them at risk for breaking a tooth. More patient types prefer sucking on them. The melting candy combines with saliva, coats the teeth, and stays for a good long time. Hello, tooth decay!
- Acids are produced by bacteria, and this is what destroys the enamel on your teeth. If you eat sour candies, you are delivering the acids directly to your mouth! And these acids are just as destructive as the microbe-generated ones. When sour combines with gummy (Sour Patch Kids come to mind), you have an especially dangerous combination.
Chocolate to the Rescue!
So what sweet treats do pass the dental health test? Chocolate, as long as it’s not combined in a confection with caramel or other chewy elements, is a great choice for giving out on Halloween. And let’s face it: what kid (or adult) doesn’t like chocolate? Keep in mind that dark chocolate tends to be lower in sugar than milk chocolate. And, for kids who don’t have allergies, chocolate with nuts offers an additional nutritional boost.
There is even evidence that chocolate may be good for your teeth! Studies have shown that certain compounds in cocoa beans contain compounds with antibacterial properties that help fight tooth decay — even better than fluoride! While chocolate’s sugar content will offset those benefits to some extent, it’s still good news for everyone’s teeth and taste buds.
Sugarless gum is another mouth-healthy treat you may want to consider giving out. When you chew gum, your saliva production increases. Saliva is one way your body rinses out the mouth and keeps it clean.
Maybe you want to get off the candy bandwagon altogether. Most parents prefer their kids get individually wrapped treats for safety reasons, but there are plenty of options that do not involve sugar. Calcium-rich cheese sticks are a good choice, as are individual packs of apple slices or carrots (available at many grocery stores).
Another fun idea is to hand out seasonally decorated non-edible goodies: glow sticks (handy for navigating dark streets during trick-or-treating), stickers, pencils, or erasers.
Hopefully you have a much better idea about what treats to avoid and which to purchase for Halloween night. There are lots of options that won’t put your kids’ and neighbors’ kids’ teeth at risk.