Scary teeth are for Jack-O-Lanterns

By Dr. Stephanie McGannDMD FAGD, Columnist, The Times

Scary teeth may look great on Halloween night but they never look great the next day. Here are a few tips and tricks that may take a bite out of all that Halloween candy.

Safety first, when that sack of candy comes home after Trick-or-Treating, always take a few minutes to sort through all that loot. Throw away any candy or treats that are not individually wrapped or have ripped or torn wrappers. Beware of homemade goodies — if you don’t know exactly who gave it to you then it may be safer to let them go as well. Also take this time to get rid of selections that you just don’t really like.  This is the part where my parents would each take their “rent” and choose a few of their own personal favorites from my (and my brother’s) haul.

Now let’s take another look at the pile. Sour candies are really hard on teeth. They usually combine hard or sticky candy with citric acid. A double whammy of bad for teeth. If possible limit these treats. My serious no-no is a candy called Toxic Waste. Seriously, the name says it all. Plain chocolates are the safest for teeth. They don’t stick to teeth and are easily washed away by saliva. (Hershey Kisses are my Favorites!)

Time is everything. It’s the amount of time that sugar is in contact with teeth that is a major factor in developing tooth decay. Pick a time, eat the candy and then be done. Don’t snack on it all day. I like to share the story of the roll of lifesavers candy.  While the sugar and calories are the same if you eat the whole roll at once or eat a single piece at a time and spread it out over the whole day, the dental damage is significantly different. After a sugar load your mouth produces acids (that weaken the enamel) it takes time for those acids to be buffered by the saliva.  I recommend putting the candy in a place where it can be dispensed for a once a day treat instead of being available for constant nibbling.

To be fair, most of the dental emergencies I see related to Halloween are almost always when grown-ups find themselves eating some of that Halloween loot. That sheepish conversation always begins with “I know better Doc”.  We are all human and even dentists eat candy. Yes, I admit it and the world did not come to an end. So for those of us with more mature teeth. I have a few simple rules.  If it’s super hard or sticky (think MaryJanes or Peanut Chews) just say no.   Folks with dry mouth must stay away from all sour candy.  Milk chocolate is the safest. If you have extensive dental work, think twice before that sticky treat. Be sure you brush and floss and chances are you will survive till morning.

Be sure to brush, floss and use a fluoride supplement during these sugary times. And of course, be sure to see your dentist regularly.

Dr. Stephanie McGann, who has more than two decades of dental practice experience, is a resident of the Unionville area and owns and practices at Rainbow Valley Dental, in Valley. She is a past President of the Chester/Delaware Dental Society and she is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry.

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