Five Holiday Treats that May Lead to Ho-Ho-Holes in Your Teeth

The old adage “too much of a good thing” is never more true than during the holiday season. There tends to be an overabundance of everything – especially sweet treats. While it’s impractical to suggest complete avoidance of holiday goodies, Delta Dental encourages moderation to make sure you receive the gift of great oral health!

Here are five common treats to limit during the holidays:

1.      Candy Canes: The problem with candy canes is the prolonged amount of time that they linger as you slowly dissolve them in your mouth. Not to mention, the temptation to chomp them, which can lead to cracks or chips in your teeth. Consume them quickly and carefully to limit their negative oral health impact.

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2.      Christmas Cookies: It’s tempting to overindulge when there’s an abundance of baked goods – like Christmas cookies – laying around. But cookies are laden with sugar and can do significant damage to your pearly whites. Of course, we know suggesting skipping cookies entirely is impractical. Just enjoy them in moderation.

3.      Holiday Drinks (such as eggnog, apple cider and hot chocolate): Festive beverages offer more than warm, holiday cheer – eggnog boasts over 20 grams of sugar per cup,1 while hot cider can pack over 65 grams of sugar when dolled up with caramel sauce and whipped cream.2 Stick to one small serving of your favorite drink and wash away some of the sticky sugar residue with a glass of water.

4.      Caramels: Chewy, sticky treats such as grandma’s famous homemade caramels are particularly damaging because they are not only high in sugar, but they spend a prolonged amount of time stuck to teeth and are more difficult for saliva to break down. The same rule applies to all those sparkly gumdrops on your gingerbread house.

5.      Fruitcake: Even though it’s the butt of many holiday jokes, some people actually eat the fruitcake that gets passed around at the holidays. Oral health reasons to avoid it include the sugary cake base and the chewy, candied fruit that stud it throughout.

Cookies, candy and sweet holiday beverages all have at least one main ingredient in common: sugar, whose negative effect on teeth has been well-documented. Why is sugar so bad for your teeth? It mixes with bacteria in the sticky plaque that constantly forms on teeth to produce acid that attacks tooth enamel. The stickiness of that plaque keeps those harmful acids against the teeth, which contributes to tooth decay.

“No one wants to be the Grinch about enjoying all the special experiences of the holidays, particularly the tasty treats that are usually around,” said Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, Delta Dental Plans Association’s vice president for dental science and policy. “Try to enjoy in moderation, and if you find yourself overindulging, perhaps spend some extra time flossing and brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.”

When you do indulge your holiday sweet tooth, it’s best to enjoy goodies as part of, or immediately following a meal, rather than snacking on treats throughout the day. Another good tip to is to stick to one small serving of your favorite drink or snack and to follow up by swishing around some water, chew sugar-free gum, or brush soon after finishing to wash away some of the sticky sugar residue.

1USDA. Basic Food Report: Eggnog. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/55/2

2MyFitnessPal. http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calories/starbucks-grande-caramel-apple-spice-cider-with-whip-61966862

The Best and Worst Halloween Treats for Teeth

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.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.

  1. 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
  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.
  1. 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
  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
  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.