The holiday season is a time when many folks indulge in delectable treats that make our taste buds tingle – but what our senses might crave isn't necessarily good for our teeth. With Halloween not far behind us and the biggest holidays of the year are coming up, it's good to know which sweets are the worst candy for teeth, and why.
Much like consuming tobacco and alcohol, eating a lot of sugar isn't exactly the healthiest choice you can make. Unfortunately, sugar is a major ingredient in most treats, such as cake, cookies and especially candy. One health risk of sugar is that it can affect your teeth.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), our mouths are loaded with germs known as bacteria. When the bacteria stick to teeth, they form a substance called plaque. Sugars from the foods we eat are consumed by the bacteria in the plaque and are turned into acids. These acids can dissolve the protective enamel on teeth, creating cavities. The end result is tooth decay and, potentially, tooth pain and sometimes loss.
Candy canes are an extremely popular treat during the holidays. Used as Christmas tree ornaments, stocking stuffers or stirrers in a cup of hot chocolate on a snowy day, candy canes seem like they're everywhere. Unfortunately, since candy canes are 100 percent sugar according to North Eugene Family Dental, they should be near the top of any list of the worst candy for teeth around the holidays.
Chewy candies are another perpetrator of tooth damage. Caramel is a great example of a chewy candy that may hit your sweet spot, but is guaranteed to stay there for some time. Caramel sticks to your teeth, which gives it staying power that provides bacteria with ample opportunity to consume the sugar, according to Ohio-based dentist Matthew Messina, a spokesman for the American Dental Association.
Hard candies have their own way of damaging teeth, Messina notes. Although chewy candy nests on teeth, hard candy dissolves in your mouth over a slow period, allowing the bacteria access to more sugar. Another concern with hard candies is for those who can't resist biting them: doing so can result in chipped or broken teeth.
Though not specifically candy, a few other sweet holiday treats to watch out for are apple cider, hot chocolate and eggnog. All three of these beverages have high sugar contents and are very popular at this time of year.
One way to minimize your mouth's exposure to holiday candies is by eating healthy snacks. Fresh fruits, such as strawberries and melons, are nutritious, healthy alternatives to candy or sugary desserts. Low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese, unbuttered popcorn and baked tortilla chips are excellent alternatives to fatty snacks and appetizers, along with raw veggies like carrots and celery.
Making it through the holidays without eating any type of sugary candy or treats at all is probably not a realistic expectation. The keys to maintaining proper oral health are consumption in moderation and regular brushing with a toothpaste such as Colgate Total® Advanced Deep Clean to help strengthen enamel, reduce plaque and fight cavities.