Toxic Waste may be more dangerous than it sounds to teeth

Super-Sour candy is almost as acidic as battery acid

By Dr. Stephanie McGann, DMD FAGD, Columnist, The Times

UTStephCollogoNo really – one of today’s hottest super sour candies is called Toxic Waste. Yummy huh?   The website for Toxic Waste is full of cartoons, games and challenges. How long can you keep this sour candy in your mouth? Are you tough enough?   Now, to be fair Toxic Waste is not the only sour candy out there but it seems to be the king of sour – surpassing even “Warheads.”  Teens are having Toxic Waste parties where they compete to hold the sour acidic candy in their mouth the longest. The package has challenges on it – at 15 seconds in the mouth you are apparently a total wuss and at a minute you are a toxie-head!  When I asked my own 14 year olds about it – they both knew all about Toxic Waste.

Somehow knowing our children are eating Toxic Waste, Nuclear Sludge and Warheads makes me think the apocalypse has already come and I missed it.

Toxic_Waste_candyIt’s not the post apocalyptic candy craze that bothers me. It’s  what makes sour candies sour.

Recently  I have noticed more acid damage on young people’s teeth. Almost everyone knows that that acids in the mouth are the byproduct of a sugary diet.   Once in a while we would see damage on an individual who habitually chewed on lemons or some other very sour fruit. Today kids and adults too are very much into the sour candy flavor rush. Some of the seriously sour candies are almost as acidic as battery acid. These candies come in many forms, nuclear sludge is a sticky chewy bar of Toxic Waste sour candy.

The candy is so acidic that it has a warning label – Caution: Consuming more than one within a brief period of time may cause irritation to the mouth. Sensitive individuals should not consume this product. The dental literature is beginning to show cases of oral burns and irritation relating to seriously sour candies.

When talking about acidic foods we need to remember that pH (the scientific measure of relative acidity) is logarithmic – it means that a pH of 3.0 is ten times more acidic that ph of 4.0  So battery acid (pH 1) is one million times more acidic than water (ph 7) Teeth begin to dissolve at pH 4.0 some of the most seriously sour candies (like the warheads sour spray) clock in at a pH of 1.6. The enzymes in saliva are good buffers and can combat a short burst of acid however, toxic waste has defeated that. The candy is super sour on the outside, and then after a little break it has a core of even more sour stuff in the middle. In my mind I see kids eating this stuff, trying to hang tough with the sour (jaws music playing…) just waiting for the center core to erupt into another sour acid attack.

OK, so I am a curmudgeonly dentist and would like to toss these crazy sour candies off the bridge at Route 926. (No wait – cancel that — I might damage the ecosystem by altering the pH of the Brandywine Creek)  Naahh — we aren’t going to get rid of them – we can choose not to eat them or at least know how to lessen the damage. I grew up on Sweet Tarts and spent a long night keeping myself awake behind the wheel of a car with a bag of Sour Skittles.  So what is the game plan to survive the post apocalyptic candy craze?


• Always start with a wet mouth by letting saliva pool in your mouth you increase its buffering potential.
• Don’t nibble sour all day – once and done.
• Follow acids with a base, such as a fruity Tums or piece of cheese.
• Wait 30 minutes before brushing after an acid – the tooth enamel is soft after a serious exposure to low pH so wait a bit so that the minerals in the saliva can firm up the teeth a bit.
• Habitual Sour lovers should use a toothpaste that adds minerals to enamel . Ask your dentist for his or her recommendation.
• If your tongue or cheek is stinging and burning – just stop – candy shouldn’t hurt.
• Spread the word that it’s more than just sour, it’s really an acid.

Take care of your teeth and eat candy in moderation  – don’t be an all day nibbler  and if it hurts don’t eat it!

Dr. Stephanie McGann, who has more than two decades of dental practice experience, is a resident of the Unionville area and along with her partner, Dr. Marie Scott, operates The Brandywine Smile Center, a family-friendly dental practice in Concordville. Dr. McGann has opened a new practice in Valley Township, Rainbow Valley Dental. She is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry.

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