What’s the best way of making sure your kids don’t ruin their teeth eating all their Halloween candy? You could go the ghastly and ghoulish route of forbidding them sugar altogether, but what sort of monster would do that? The better option: good science, which might just mean having them eat their treats as fast as they can.
Eating sugar doesn’t cause cavities – not necessarily. It depends on how long that sugar is in your mouth. A bacteria in our mouths called streptococcus mutans metabolizes sugar and turns it into acid which can destroy tooth enamel, resulting in cavities. The longer sugar is in our mouths, the more acid will be produced.
So the best way to minimize the chances of your kid getting a cavity from Halloween candy is to sort through the “good” treats and eat them quickly.
“Binge is better,” says Felicity Hardwick, a pediatric dentist in Nanaimo, B.C.
“The child who will eat it [slowly] all day long is going to be more likely to have a problem,” she says.
Which brings us to the “good” candy.
“As crazy as it sounds, a piece of chocolate is better than some hard sugar candy that they’re going to be sucking on for 10 minutes,” Hardwick says.
And the worst offenders? Toffee tops the list for pulling gear out of a kid’s mouth, whether it’s parts of braces or dental fillings. “If you’re going to see things coming in that need to be recemented on the teeth, it’s going to be at Halloween,” Hardwick says.
When it comes to cavities, lollipops are probably the worst of the worst because children suck on them for so long.
“Some people may give out sugar-free ones, but they’re not going to be very popular,” Hardwick says.
If you have a lollipop fiend in your family, it’s a good idea to have them eat a piece of cheese afterward, since it can help neutralize the acidity levels in the mouth.
Also, pick the right time to have a candy binge, Hardwick advises.
“If you do this at night and then go to bed without brushing and flossing, that’s going to increase your risk because you don’t produce as much saliva when you’re sleeping,” Hardwick says.
And just to be clear, when she says “binge,” that could mean letting your kid eat two or three pieces of candy in one sitting when they might normally only get one a week.
If you’re smart about it, you won’t have to feel guilty – and nor will you ruin your kid’s teeth. Or you could go the extreme route and not eat any candy.
“That’s never going to happen,” Hardwick says.