Little ghosts and goblins will trick-or-treat to collect as much candy as they can this Halloween, but it’s not just kids who will enjoy the treats. Nearly 80 percent of parents admit they eat their children’s Halloween candy, according to the Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey.1 But some candies have the potential to do more damage to teeth than others.
The best way to protect teeth from decay is to have candy in small portions at limited times, such as after a meal, as dessert or at regular snack times. Nearly 90 percent of parents say their kids consume Halloween candy this way.1 Choose candy that melts and disappears quickly. The longer teeth are exposed to sugar, the longer bacteria can feed on it, which could produce cavity-causing acid.
While no sweets are good for teeth, some are less harmful than others. We rated the best and worst treats for teeth on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being least harmful.
- Sugar-free candy and gum with xylitol Sugar-free foods don’t contain sugar that can feed on the bacteria in the mouth and produce decay-causing acids. Gum and candy with xylitol may actually protect teeth by reducing the acids produced by bacteria and increasing saliva to rinse away excess sugars and acids.
- Our survey says 44 percent of kids eat sugar-free candy at Halloween.1
- Powdery candy (such as sugar straws) Sure, powdery candy is packed with pure sugar. But powdery candy dissolves quickly and doesn’t stick to the teeth.
- Chocolate (such as candy bars) Chocolate dissolves quickly in the mouth and can be eaten easily, which decreases the amount of time sugar stays in contact with teeth. And calcium could help protect tooth enamel. However, chocolate with fillings, such as caramel and nuts, is a lot more harmful for teeth than the plain variety.
- Our survey says 86 percent of kids eat chocolate at Halloween. 1
- Hard candy (such as lollipops or mints) Hard candy is tough on teeth because it tends to be sucked on at a leisurely pace for an extended period of time. Plus, chomping down on hard candy can chip or break teeth.
- Our survey says 50 percent of kids eat hard candy at Halloween. 1
- Chewy candy (such as caramels or gummies) Chewy, sticky treats are particularly damaging because they are high in sugar, spend a prolonged amount of time stuck to teeth and are more difficult for saliva to break down.
- Our survey says 57 percent of kids eat chewy candy at Halloween. 1
Another way to protect teeth is to give kids something other than candy. Nearly 25 percent of parents hand out non-candy items to trick-or-treaters, such as toys, money or fruit.1
For additional tips on how to help keep children’s teeth healthy during Halloween and all year long, visit the Tooth Fairy’s Halloween website at www.toothfairytrickytreats.com.
1 Morpace Inc. conducted the 2013 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted nationally via the Internet with 926 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is ±3.2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.