For Halloween candy, frequency, not quantity, increases risk for cavities
SUMMARY: Eating treats throughout the day is worse for oral health than gorging. Find out why.
Posted: October 14, 2013
To gorge or not to gorge? As your child dumps the bucket of candy on the kitchen table on Halloween night, it might not be a bad idea to let them have at it.
Certainly, Halloween presents a spooky time for oral health, as candy prompts a breeding ground for cavities and canker sores. However, contrary to popular belief, it may be better to let your child gorge on the candy at once, instead of spreading out the sugar sessions over time. According to Temple University pediatric dentist Mark Helpin, the higher number of times you eat candy, not the amount is more likely to cause dental caries, or cavities.
After chomping on all of the chocolates and artificially-flavored gummies, the pH level in the mouth becomes extremely acidic, thereby increasing the risk of damage to teeth enamel. Each time the candy is consumed, it can take the saliva and natural processes up to an hour to clean the acidic environment and return to normal. On the other hand, snacking on candy throughout the day bathes the teeth in constant acidity, which puts the them at a higher risk for erosion.
"If I eat a piece of candy now, the pH in my mouth will become acidic, and it will take 30 to 60 minutes for it become normal," Helpin said. "If I eat two or three pieces of candy when I eat that first one, my mouth stays acidic the same length of time that it would if I ate just that single piece. If I keep eating candy throughout the day, there is acid in my mouth for a much longer period of time. The longer teeth are in an acid environment, the greater the risk they will become decayed."
Here's a good way to gauge it: water has a pH of 7.0 while battery acid yields a pH of 1.0. The loss of tooth enamel, or the protective "shell" on your teeth, occurs at 4.0. That's considered a danger zone. Yet many sour candies produce a pH level lower than 2.5, which, for all intensive purposes, can be deemed an acidic wasteland.
The fact of the matter is that kids are going to eat candy on Halloween. Crucially, though, there is a right way to do it. Make sure they brush their teeth after consuming sweets. Brushing will clean bacteria and dental plaque out of the mouth, and help to neutralize acidity. It is recommended that children brush within the first 10 minutes of finishing eating.
Eliminating the recipe for rotting teeth
The four main variables necessary for tooth decay are:
• health of the tooth
• sugar presence
• amount of bacteria
• time for infection.
As a parent, you can control sugar and time. Stray away from letting your kids snack on treats over the course of the day and, instead, set a time when they can enjoy their Halloween booty.
To handle bacteria and teeth, proper oral hygiene methods are a must. Parents and kids alike should brush twice per day, two minutes each time. If this sounds like a long time, try humming your favorite song while scrubbing. It will take you right up to the two-minute mark.
In addition, floss once per day before you brush. The American Dental Association says if you floss before brushing, the fluoride from the toothpaste has a better chance of reaching the nooks and crannies between teeth. Often, if we wait until afterwards, we think our mouth already feels clean so we postpone flossing. Get it done right away! Once it becomes a habit, you won't even have to think twice about it.
Visits to the dentist are highly important. Schedule a check-up at least twice each year.