Are your favorite treats playing tricks on your teeth?
There’s something about fall weather and the quickly approaching holiday season that tends to spark a higher consumption of sweets, especially around Halloween.
Sugar and dental health aren’t the best of friends, and while it’s easy to tell yourself to just not eat candy, this isn’t a very realistic approach. Instead of trying to avoid candy altogether, focus more on keeping the sugar binges in check and indulging in sweet treats that aren’t as bad for your teeth.
Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst options, so you can keep your teeth healthy all season long.
The Best Sweet Treats for Your Teeth
Generally, the safest sweet treats are those that are eaten quickly and have minimal or natural sugar. Candies that dissolve quickly also tend to be less damaging to teeth.
Some examples of better sweet treats include:
- Chocolate: Chocolate melts quickly, and a little tends to go a long way, meaning most people will satisfy their sweet tooth faster than with sugary candy. Try and stick with a bar of dark chocolate, if possible.
- Chocolate Candy Bars: Chocolate candy bars without a sticky center tend to be a better choice for the same reason mentioned above. Examples include Kit Kats, Crunch bars, M&Ms, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
- Sugar-Free Candy: Sugar-free candies, especially those made with xylitol, are anti-cavity in nature and are a much safer option for kids and adults.
- Fresh Fruit: Fresh fruit is always a great option over typical sweet treats. Apples are often in abundance during fall and are a great choice since every bite scrubs the surface of your teeth.
- Healthy Candy Bars: Kind bars and other health-centered candy bar options are also great choices. Just be sure to read the labels, as some supposedly “healthy” candy bar substitutes can still be very high in sugar.
Some other great options for soothing sweet tooth cravings include yogurt, peanut butter (great with apple slices), and toasted nuts.
The Worst Sweet Treats for Your Teeth
The worst sweet treats tend to fall into the categories of anything sticky, long-lasting, or acidic.
- Caramel Apples: Fresh apples might be recommended, but caramel apples can wreak havoc on teeth. Not only do you have the high sugar content of the caramel itself, but the stickiness is well-known for damaging crowns, fillings, and veneers.
- Chewy/Gummy Candies: For the same reasons mentioned above, you’ll want to keep taffy, caramel candies, and another candies similar to those in check. Examples include Laffy Taffy, soft caramels, Starburst, Tootsie Rolls, jelly beans, gummy worms/bears, etc.
- Dried Fruit: Dried fruit is notoriously high in added sugar and sticks to teeth. If you do enjoy dried fruit, look for options that aren’t as chewy and have no added sugar.
- Sour Candies: Sour candies not only tend to stick to the surface of the teeth and take a while to consume, but they also have high acidity, meaning they can cause even more damage than a simple chewy or gummy candy. Examples include Sour Patch Kids, Sour Skittles, and Cry Baby candies.
- Suckers/Hard Candy: Suckers and hard candies take a while to consume, which exposes your teeth to sugar for longer periods of time. Crunching down on them can also chip your teeth. Some popular examples include lollipops, Jolly Ranchers, jawbreakers, and Atomic Fireballs. *Note: Many brands now make sugar-free options for hard candies, so keep an eye out for those!*
You don’t need to completely avoid the candies in this category, but it is wise to keep a close eye on how much you are eating. Be sure to brush your teeth well after eating them to minimize sugar exposure.
Remember, if you have fillings, veneers, and/or crowns, be very careful with any sweet treat that is chewy or gummy. Not only can you cause damage to these restorations, but you can also damage the underlying tooth structure if they forcibly get pulled off by a candy.
Be aware of what you’re drinking.
When you think of sweet treats, it’s easy to forget that many drinks are also notorious for having high sugar contents.
Some of the worst include:
- Pumpkin Spice Lattes: Pumpkin spice lattes and other sugary coffee drinks are synonymous with fall. Unfortunately, they are far from a tooth-friendly beverage. PSLs and similar drinks can be dehydrating due to the coffee, and they also have a very high sugar content.
- Apple Cider: Apple cider is another popular fall/Halloween drink that is deceptively high in sugar. Check the nutrition label and look for ciders with low sugar or natural sugar from fruit.
- Alcohol: For adults, Halloween can be a fun time to drink and relax. Some alcohol is low in sugar, such as clear spirits like vodka, but they are also dehydrating. Wine and beers can also stain teeth and may have more sugar than you think. Look for beers that are lighter in color with low sugar. The same concept applies to wine.
- Black Tea: Black tea drinks, such as chai lattes, can also contain a lot of sugar, but more so it’s the tannins in the tea that can be a problem, as they can quickly stain even the brightest white smile. Black tea can also be drying to the mouth.
Some of the best fall and Halloween drinks include sparkling water and sugar-free sparkling drinks, green tea, and licorice root tea.
Step up your oral care routine.
While you should be keeping up a dentist-recommended oral care routine all year long, it’s especially important to stick with it during Halloween. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to ramp up your normal routine to really help prevent any tooth damage when you’re eating more sweets than normal.
Think about stepping up the general twice-a-day brushing guideline to brushing after every meal or sweet treat indulgence to ensure sugars are quickly removed from your teeth. It’s also a good idea to floss before every brushing, especially if you’ve been eating baked goods and sticky or crunchy candies. If you’re out and about, chewing on some sugar-free gum is a good idea until you can brush.
If you haven’t been to your dentist for a checkup within the last six months or you’re experiencing toothaches or discomfort, be sure to schedule an appointment immediately to ensure your mouth is healthy and happy before the holiday season is in full effect.