By now, it’s common knowledge that Halloween is one of the worst holidays from an oral health standpoint; and it’s also common knowledge that on holidays like Halloween, we quietly sweep dental hygiene under the rug for a few days. But not all candies are created equal. Although no dentist will ever actively tell you to eat candy, there are some varieties that are safer than others. When you’re handing out or going trick-or-treating with your kids or neighbors this year, remember this guide to keep your teeth as safe as possible—and still enjoy your holiday!
1. Chocolate – Your Best Bet
Although the sugar in most milk chocolates (especially those marketed toward children) is still damaging to your teeth, chocolates are typically your safest bet when looking for candy that won’t cause long term harm. Chocolate doesn’t stick to your teeth as much as other candies, and in terms of cleaning your teeth, chocolate can be wiped away with ease. Most dentists agree that dark chocolate is the safest choice, so if you have a sweet tooth, look for chocolates that are higher in cacao and lower in milk and sugar. Unfortunately, most Halloween chocolate is packed with sugar, so even if you’re careful about staying away from other candies, make sure your children brush their teeth after consuming chocolate treats.
2. Nutty Candy Bars
While many candy bars include sticky layers like caramel, those containing nuts may be the next best thing to dark chocolate when it comes to avoiding tooth damage. Nuts help break up the stickiness of candy bars, and may actually help remove sticky substances from your teeth as you chew. If you can, try opting for a granola candy bar like Chewy or KIND, which have a layer of sweet chocolate but are mostly composed of nuts and oats; these can fulfill your sweet tooth craving without sticking around in your mouth afterward.
3. Sweet Popcorns and Chewy Candies
Popcorn treats, like chocolate or caramel-covered popcorns, and soft candies like candy corn or peppermint patties, still contain loads of sugar, but are somewhat less dangerous than sticky, acidic, or hard candies. If you or your child love to munch, make sure you bring along a roll of floss, since popcorn kernel pieces can get lodged between teeth, where the sugar can eat away at your enamel. Soft candies like candy corns aren’t as harmful as their stickier counterparts, but they’re pretty much pure sugar, so try to brush your teeth shortly after chowing down.
4. Hard Candy, Sticky Candy – The Worst Choices
Even if your child knows not to bite down on hard candy, which can easily chip a tooth, the truth about most suckers, jawbreakers, and lozenges is that they remain in your mouth for an extended period of time, allowing the sugars and acids to do lasting damage to your teeth. Even suckers like throat lozenges, which are marketed as cold and flu remedies, have more sugar than most chocolate or other soft treats, and expose your teeth to more damage than the saliva they induce could possibly wipe away. When you need something to suck on, or when your throat feels try, reach for a sugar-free option or a sugarless gum, which yield the same benefits but won’t damage your enamel.
Like hard candies that expose your teeth to damage over a period of time, sticky candies do exactly as their name suggests: they stick to your teeth, gradually eroding your enamel, and can lead to cavities and tooth decay. Sticky candies also pose a risk for loosening weak teeth, which can cause toothache, especially in children with baby teeth. If you must indulge in a Laffy Taffy, a caramel, or a Tootsie Roll, make sure you brush and floss your teeth thoroughly after eating. These culprits are as tricky as they are sticky, and will cling to your teeth and gums even after you’ve eaten them.