Obviously, from a nutritional standpoint, it isn’t a good idea to stuff yourself with candy next week. Actually, it isn’t good to do it at any time, including Halloween. However, the annual candyfest always puts eating sweets in the news – right along with Valentine’s Day. I’m a dentist so I get tossed into the mix each year … and here we go again!
Although you should always be careful about your diet, Halloween and its associated candy isn’t the end of the world. I would warn most about candy or treats in which they stay in the mouth for a long time – such as lollipops and sugared chewing gum.
Both of these, along with sticky and hard candies, are really what should scare you this Halloween. Keeping a mouthful of sugar for a long time is a quick way to find out the different skills of your dentist and as for hard candies, if you shouldn’t chew ice (and you shouldn’t), then you darn well should be trying jawbreakers.
Now, in case you’d like to hear from a source other than myself, here’s the low-down directly from the American Dental Association with 10 tips on how to have a mouth-healthy Halloween this year:
- TIME IT RIGHT: Eat Halloween candy (and other sugary foods) with meals or shortly after mealtime. Saliva production increases during meals and helps cancel out acids produced by bacteria in your mouth and helps rinse away food particles.
- CHOOSE CANDY CAREFULLY: Avoid hard candy and other sweets that stay in your mouth for a long time. Aside from how often you snack, the length of time sugary food is in your mouth plays a role in tooth decay. Unless it is a sugar-free product, candies that stay in the mouth for a long period of time subject teeth to an increased risk for tooth decay.
- AVOID STICKY SITUATIONS: Sticky candies cling to your teeth. The stickier candies, like taffy and gummy bears, take longer to get washed away by saliva, increasing the risk for tooth decay.
- DRINK MORE WATER: Drinking fluoridated water can help prevent tooth decay. If you choose bottled water, look for kinds that are fluoridated..
- MAINTAIN A HEALTY DIET: Your body is like a complex machine. The foods you choose as fuel and how often you “fill up” affect your general health and that of your teeth and gums.
- STAY AWAY FROM SUGARY BEVERAGES: This includes soda, sports drinks and flavored waters. When teeth come in frequent contact with beverages that contain sugar, the risk of tooth decay is increased.
- CHEW GUM WITH THE ADA SEAL: Chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals helps reduce tooth decay, because increased saliva flow helps wash out food and neutralize the acid produced by dental plaque bacteria. Find one with the ADA Seal.
- BRUSH TWICE A DAY: Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. Remember, replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
- CLEAN BETWEEN YOUR TEETH: Floss your teeth once a day. Decay-causing bacteria get between teeth where toothbrush bristles can’t reach. Flossing helps remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.
- VISIT A DENTIST: Regular visits to your dentist can help prevent problems from occurring and catch those that do occur early, when they are easy to “treat.”
So, enjoy all the scary fun you like, but remember to follow the guidelines above so that you don’t face a big problem in your mouth later on.
If you don’t have a dentist, consider calling the full-service Naples Institute of Implant Dentistry (239-261-8200). We can help you take care of your mouth.