When the topic of Halloween comes up in many dental offices, many patients want to know what candies are “dentist approved,” and what candies are better left uneaten. It is important to remember that your dentist wants you to enjoy the holiday. Candy is not off limits. If you brush and floss twice-a-day, one night of candy over-indulgence will not cause permanent damage to your pearly whites. With that being said, there are certain candies that can cause acute damage (or chronic damage if candy is stockpiled and snacked on for the days and weeks following Halloween) that most dentists will urge their patients to practice caution around.
Sour Patch Kids
Sour Patch Kids are a double whammy in regards to oral health. Sour candies are acidic; this is what gives them a “sour” taste. Acid byproducts deteriorate tooth enamel, which is why many dentists recommend that their patients steer clear of partaking in one-too-many sour-flavored candies. Another hit against Sour Patch Kids is that they are coated with sugar, which is known for its cavity-causing properties.
Much like Sour Patch Kids, Jolly Ranchers pack a one-two punch. Hard candy is not favored in the dental community because it can easily crack teeth if the trick-or-treater accidentally bites down or attempts to chew the candy. If it is eaten correctly, this still poses a problem because hard candy is meant to be sucked on. This prolongs the amount of time the candy is in the mouth, which exposes the teeth and gums to sugar for a longer period of time.
As a common candy go-to and a candy that brings up heated debates on which flavor is the best flavor, Starbursts have the unfortunate burden of being chewy. Chewy candy stays in your mouth long after you have “finished” it. Because the candy sticks to the teeth, it can become a breeding ground for cavity-causing bacteria. If someone that consumes a chewy kind of candy also has oral appliances like braces, the candy can stick around for hours.
Tootsie Pops are another two-for-one candy item. Not only are Tootsie Pops hard (which can, as mentioned, crack the teeth and allow for a piece of sugar-laden candy to stay in the mouth longer), they are also filled with chocolate that has a high sugar content.
If candy is referred to as taffy in any way, it is bad for your teeth. It is incredibly sticky and made up of nothing but sugar. If it is a “must have,” stick to only one piece. Other sticky, sugary sweets that qualify are candies that are coated or filled with a sticky, semi-hard caramel (be wary of candy apples for this reason).
Likely the most shocking of the list, M&Ms are not the worst Halloween candy you could eat, but they certainly are not the best. Many dentists will praise chocolate as the best kind of candy you could eat on Halloween. Dark chocolate, for example, has antioxidants that can have positive effects on the body. Milk chocolate, while not as ideal because it is filled with more sugar, is still a better alternative to other candies because chocolate washes off of the teeth much faster than candies that are sour, hard, or sticky. With that being said, M&Ms are not just chocolates. They are made with milk chocolate and are then “wrapped” in a candy coating made of simple sugar.
Practice caution this Halloween and make sure you and your children are aware of the various effects that certain candies have on the teeth. Seek out the sweets and treats that you love and donate the rest. Most dentists participate in some kind of candy trade during Halloween where patients can trade their Halloween candy for various items of their dentist’s choosing. Remember, while these are the “worst” kinds of Halloween candy for your teeth, this list does not imply that you have to forego eating candy on Halloween. By following a daily oral health routine that includes twice-a-day brushing and flossing, by seeing your dentist for regular cleanings, and by making sure that all Halloween candy is not stockpiled and consumed daily for weeks, you can absolutely have your Halloween candy sans guilt.