As the ghosts and ghouls make their way through the Halloween festivities, there’s one thing to keep in mind: sugar can seriously damage those pearly fangs.
Your mouth is full of hundreds of bacteria. Most of them are necessary to your mouth’s health, but there are some that actually cause damage. This harmful bacteria is what causes cavities. It feeds on sugars you eat to create acids that destroy tooth enamel, that shiny outer layer of the tooth. This bacteria builds up in plaque and stays on your teeth until it’s removed by brushing, flossing, using mouthwash, or with the help of a dental hygienist.
This is why it’s important to eat balanced meals, drink lots of water, and brush often. Did the water tip surprise you? Dehydration is detrimental to mouth health. Did you know that your saliva is a key player in repairing your teeth? It contains calcium and phosphates that strengthen and repair the acid damage. If you’re dehydrated, you can’t produce the saliva necessary to counter the acid. Here’s a great tip for you: swish with water first thing in the morning to get your saliva glands working so you can begin the day with a bad bacteria counterattack. Fluoride is also a vital mineral and is found in most toothpastes, mouthwashes, and some water. Keep in mind that your saliva and fluoride can only do so much. If you produce more acid than they can counter, your enamel will break down and allow cavities to form.
Too much sugar can also lead to gum disease, a condition that affects over 50% of the American population. It’s a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum tissues and the bones supporting the teeth. A recent study proved that advanced gum disease can also cause (and create complications for) heart disease and Type II Diabetes. It can also cause complications in respiratory diseases and increase the risk of stroke. You can have gum disease without having cavities and vice versa, but you should know that gum disease is harder to spot in the early stages.
Of course, if you’re the one handing out the Halloween treats, there are some great alternatives to sugar. You can offer up alternative treats like temporary tattoos, playful plastic jewelry, fun accessories like pirate patches, arts and crafts items, fun school supplies, games, and coloring kits. There are great food alternatives, as well. Sugarless gum is great since it has no sugar and also stimulates saliva. Mini boxes of raisins or bags of pretzels, string cheese, cereal bars, and more are great options.
If sugar must be consumed to keep the costumed kiddos happy, make sure they brush their teeth thoroughly with a fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. Sticky, hard, and chewy candies can keep causing damage long after they’ve been eaten, so try to stay away from those. Limit candy to the end of a meal or right before a tooth-brushing session.