Ever get envious of how much sugar and sweets a little kid can eat with seemingly little to no health effects? They get less sick, don’t put on five pounds overnight, don’t break out in acne. And goodness knows there is a sweet for every season. The winter holidays mean pies and baked goods. The most ice cream produced during the year occurs in the hot month of June. Easter is a haven for malted milk or marshmallow treats. Perhaps none are more notorious than the spooky, chilly night coming up soon: Halloween.
We’re all aware of the stereotypical concerned dentist passing out apples or toothbrushes to her neighborhood trick-or-treaters. After all, kids can handle a lot more sugar than adults, but not without health drawbacks. Children’s teeth are more susceptible to cavities than a lot of parents realize. Childhood cavities, or caries, are fairly common, occurring in around 42% of children ages two to 11. But did you know that brushing your teeth directly after eating candy can actually be damaging?
Whether you’re concerned about a child’s candy consumption or your own, you should know that there ARE some best practices to follow. First of all, candy isn’t inherently dangerous to typically healthy people. If you get all of your nutritional needs, a bit of dessert isn’t harmful. Most doctors would give you the go-ahead for a treat as long as you’re healthy. Your body can usually process everything peachy-keen. So what happens to your teeth?
The bacteria that naturally live in every person’s mouth absolutely love the sugar in candies. They eat it up. And what happens when an organic organism eats? They poop. Yes, cavities in your mouth are generally caused by bacteria poop. Sorry, we know it’s kind of gross to think about. But basically, the little bacteria excrete acid that can break down your enamel and eventually lead to a cavity. This is why brushing your teeth directly after eating candy (or acidic foods like strawberries or lemonade) can be harmful. The acid makes your enamel soft, and immediate brushing can wear that softened enamel away.
Instead of brushing immediately after you have candy, drink some water. Water can help neutralize that acid and protect your enamel. Some dentists even recommend drinking neutral or slightly alkaline water after candy. Typically the health benefits touted by these products are unproven, but they DO help keep mouth acidity neutralized.
Other than that? There are a few suggestions universally accepted by dentists. That includes flossing before bed, eating candy near mealtimes when your saliva production is highest, and avoiding sticky candies like taffy and caramel. Remember, moderation is key, and have a happy Halloween!