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Worst Candy for Teeth Around the Holidays

The holiday season is typically a time when indulging in delectable treats makes your taste buds tingle. But what your senses pine for during festive times isn't necessarily good for your teeth.

At the risk of being a humbug, we present the scoop on which sweets are the worst candy for teeth – and why. Or you can look at these dental facts as a gift of knowledge to help you navigate the holiday season and keep your teeth decay-free.

Sugar: Sweet but Toxic to Your Teeth

During the holidays, eating loads of sugar isn't exactly the healthiest choice you can make. But as you know, sugar's hard to avoid since it's a major ingredient in most holiday treats – cakes, pies, cookies, and especially candy.

You're aware that one health risk of sugar is that it can negatively impact your teeth. But do you know how sugar affects your teeth? Here's the breakdown:

  1. As in other parts of our body, mostly healthy and some unhealthy bacteria abound, filling your mouth.
  2. When bacteria stick to teeth, they form a substance called biofilm, commonly known as plaque.
  3. Bacteria in plaque consume sugar from the foods you eat and turn the sugar into acids.
  4. The acids can dissolve the protective enamel on teeth, creating cavities.
  5. The result is tooth decay and, potentially, tooth pain. If you don't treat the tooth decay, tooth loss can result. (You might be wishing for more than just your two front teeth on Christmas!)

Candy Culprits

You probably don't have sugarplums dancing in your head. But you might be dreaming of these popular holiday candies that, alas, promote tooth decay:

Candy Canes: Whether hanging from a tree, stuffing a stocking, or stirring a cup of hot chocolate, candy canes are a traditional holiday treat. But did you know that candy canes are usually 75% sugar and 25% corn syrup, a blend of sugars (fructose, glucose, etc.)? With all that sugar, a candy cane is near the top of the naughty candy list during the holiday season.

Chewy Candies: Caramel, toffee, Twizzlers, fudge, and other chewy treats might hit your sweet spot – and then stay there for some time. Since these candies stick to your teeth, they have the staying power that provides bacteria with ample opportunity to consume the sugar, producing acids.

And when you combine caramel and popcorn, you set yourself up for a double whammy of tooth decay. Not only do you get the sugars from caramel, but popcorn kernel shells can get stuck between your teeth. Not to mention you always have the potential to crack a tooth biting down on unpopped or not-fully-popped kernels.

Hard Candies: Speaking of cracking a tooth, you might be among the people who can't resist biting into hard candies, such as peanut brittle and peppermints. But by resisting the temptation to bite into hard confections, so you don't chip or break a tooth, you're still subject to tooth decay. Although chewy candy nests on teeth, hard candy dissolves in your mouth over a slow period, allowing the bacteria access to more sugar.

Sweet Holiday Beverages: Though not specifically candy, a few drinks with high sugar content are popular during holiday festivities. It's best to limit your consumption of apple cider, hot chocolate, eggnog, and sweet, creamy alcoholic drinks.

Awesome Alternatives

Making it through the holidays without eating sugary candies or treats isn't a reasonable or realistic expectation. But you can minimize your mouth's exposure to bacteria-consuming, acid-forming sugars in these ways:

Buy and make sugar-free confections. You can have all the deliciousness without the damaging sugars. Be sure to read labels of prepared products to make certain there are no hidden sugars.

Consume candy and other sweets with your meals, not as a snack. This is good advice any time of year. If you want to enjoy your holiday goodies, treat them as a dessert instead of a snack. Your saliva increases during meals to help wash away the sugars in a more efficient manner. And this tip can also help you moderate your consumption of holiday sweets.

(PS: Don't forget to drink water after eating dessert!)

Eat healthy snacks. By satisfying your between-meal cravings with these foods, you can enjoy your mealtime dessert even more. (No guilt!)

  • Strawberries, apples, melons, and other fresh fruits are nutritious, healthy alternatives to candy or sugary snacks.
  • Cheese, yogurt, unbuttered popcorn, and baked tortilla chips are great substitutions for fatty snacks and appetizers.
  • Carrots, celery, and other raw veggies served with hummus or sugar-free peanut butter are nourishing options to banish your yen for sweets.

And don't forget: Of course, brushing, cleaning between your teeth, and rinsing immediately after eating sweets is your best bet for keeping away tooth decay. At the very least, carry around dental picks so you can do a quick cleaning at holiday parties.

Knowing what candies are the bad elves during the holidays, you can plan your strategy for enjoying sweet treats during the festive season. The important thing is that you start the new year with a sweet smile.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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