This article featuring a recent interview the Free Lance-Star did with Dr. Willhide, appeared in the Healthy Life section of The Free Lance-Star on October 27, 2013.
Enjoy the treats, but mind your teeth!
By Bridget Balch
The chance that you and your little ones are going to keep your teeth from touching any sour or sweet treats this Halloween is pretty slim.
But that’s okay.
“Halloween is a part of our culture, and a dentist should not keep kids from enjoying Halloween,” said John Willhide, a Fredericksburg dentist. “But also I think it’s an opportunity to educate parents on what they can do to minimize the detrimental effects of candy.”
Try following these tips to have a tooth-healthy day, without sucking the sweetness out of the celebration.
- Savor sugar-free lollipops and hard candies, which can increase saliva production and help prevent plaque build-up.
- Chocoholics, rejoice! Plain dark, milk and white chocolate—no nuts or caramel—are not so bad for your teeth.
- Chew on some sugar-free gum. It can actually help ward off cavities.
- Eat a real meal. It may be tempting to save up calories to gorge on sweets, but eating a healthy meal will help limit sugar intake. Plus, eating causes saliva production, which—you guessed it!—helps prevent tooth decay.
- Eat your heart out! No, really. Halloween comes once a year, and one day of sugar overload isn’t that bad for your teeth.
Even Dr. Willhide admitted to indulging in his share of Heath and Toblerone candy bars.
THE WORST CANDIES
Cavities are caused by bacteria in the mouth that feed on sugar and produce acid.
Acidity is determined by the pH scale, which ranges from water, at 7.0, to battery acid, at 1.0. Loss of tooth enamel occurs at 4.0, making most sour candies the worst Halloween offenders.
Some Halloween favorites are shockingly close to the low, battery-acid end of the pH scale, with SweeTarts and Sour Gummi Bears at 3.0, Sour Skittles at 2.2 and Pixy Stix at 1.9, according to the Academy of General Dentistry.
If foregoing the sour candies is too tough, be sure to wait 30 minutes after eating them before brushing to avoid spreading the acid around your teeth. Instead, let your saliva restore the natural balance of acid in the mouth.
Chewy and sticky sweets also are a big threat to oral health. Caramels, gummies, taffy, candy corn and even dried fruit stick to the teeth, especially in the hard-to-clean crevices. The prolonged exposure of sugar to the teeth increases the risk of cavities.
The Halloween season, when Americans buy 600 million pounds of candy, is a good time to remember to take care of your teeth all year. Regular dentist visits, brushing, flossing and fluoride treatments are the best ways to ensure that smile stays intact.