Not all Halloween candies are created equally, and pediatric dentists want parents to know the difference. What do the pros consider to be the best and worst Halloween candy for teeth?
“Selecting candy that melts and disappears quickly, such as chocolate, is a better option for your teeth,” says Danielle Goldstein, DDS with Affiliated Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics in Scottsdale.
Goldstein advises avoiding sticky, chewy candy or lollipops because they cause sugar to linger on teeth — and the longer sugar stays on the teeth, the more time bacteria has to process that sugar and produce the destructive acid that causes tooth decay.
Here’s a lineup in order of best to worst Halloween candy for the teeth, according to the experts at Delta Dental of Arizona:
Sugar-free candy and gum with Xylitol
Sugar-free products 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.
Powdery candy — like what you get in sugar straws — is packed with pure sugar, but it dissolves quickly and doesn’t stick to the teeth.
Chocolate dissolves quickly in the mouth, which decreases the amount of time sugar stays in contact with teeth. And calcium in milk chocolate could help protect tooth enamel. Chocolate with fillings like caramel or nuts is a lot more harmful for teeth than the plain variety.
Hard candy (lollypops, sour balls or any lozenge) is tough on teeth because it stays in the mouth for an extended period of time. Chomping down on hard candy can chip or break teeth.
Chewy, sticky treats like caramels and gummies are particularly damaging to teeth because they are high in sugar. These candies stick to teeth longer and are more difficult for saliva to break down.
Goldstein’s tips on protecting teeth from decay:
- Limit the frequency of candy consumption so that teeth are not bathed in sugar for extended periods of time.
- Eat small portions of candy after a meal, then put the candy away.
- Brush the teeth or rinse with water after eating sweets.
- For kids with orthodontia: Avoid hard candies that can dislodge braces or break bondings.
Have way too much candy? Find a dental practice, sorted by zip code, that participates in a Halloween candy Buy-Back program.
This article was first published in 2014 and has been edited to reflect updated information.