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Dentists Identify the Worst Halloween Candy for Kids

Halloween, Halloween candy, children's health and safety

If dentists have their choice, Halloween would be more about having fun and less about sugary sweets but if you must partake in the celebration, there is some candy that is worse than others when it comes to promoting dental cavities.

The Academy of General Dentistry spokesperson Cynthia Sherwood DDS FAGD says that chewy and sticky candies such as gummies and taffy are a serious source of tooth decay, particularly because they get stuck in the crevices between teeth, making it nearly impossible to remove. Even dried fruit such as raisins can cause a problem notes Dr. Sherwood.

Sour candies such as Warheads, Lemonheads, or Sour Patch Kids are highly acidic and can break down tooth enamel quickly. But the good news is that saliva helps to restore the natural balance of the acid in the mouth. Contrary to what you might think a dentist might say about brushing teeth after eating candy, in the case of sour candies, Dr. Sherwood recommends that patients wait about 30 minutes to brush and allow the saliva to do it’s magic. Otherwise, kids will be brushing the acid onto more tooth surfaces, increasing the risk of enamel erosion.

Purely sugar snacks such as candy corn are also a problem for kids. Instead, you might try a small version of a candy that includes a protein, such as peanut butter cups or chocolate with nuts.

Dr. Sherwood recommends that parents stock their treat bowls with sugar-free lollipops and hard candies which stimulate saliva, helping to prevent dry mouth. . "A dry mouth allows plaque to build up on teeth faster, leading to an increased risk of cavities," Dr. Sherwood says. Also good is sugar-free gum which can help dislodge particles from between the teeth.

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Dark chocolate is a better option than milk chocolate, as the higher cocoa content would provide more antioxidants that are good for the heart. But, of course, with kids, they may not go for the more bitter taste of the dark chocolate, so find a good balance between sweetness and healthfulness.

What other candy choices might be good options? Real Simple magazine offers advice for when you have a choice:

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Snickers? Snickers is the better choice because it contains less fat, less saturated fat, and 10 fewer calories in a fun-size candy comparison.
Peanut M&M’s or Skittles? Skittles only have 61 calories compared to 90 in the peanut M&M’s, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a better choice. The peanuts help lower the glycemic index, so sugar is released more slowly into the bloodstream.
Twix or Kit Kat? The Kit Kat will save you 20 calories and has less sodium and saturated fat.
Candy Corn or Tootsie Rolls? This one is a trick question; it’s actually a tie. But if you are going for quantity, 26 pieces of candy corn have the same number of calories as 6 Tootsie Rolls (140).

For the rest of the list of candy options, visit RealSimple.com.

Remember that after a Halloween candy splurge of any kind, children (and adults) should be brushing their teeth to keep them strong and healthy. "Parents should closely monitor their children's candy intake this Halloween—and all year round—and continue to promote good oral health habits," Dr. Sherwood says. "Kids also should be brushing their teeth twice a day for two minutes."

SOURCES: Academy of General Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

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