Chewy or sticky candy
- Examples: caramel, taffy, gummy candy.
- These types of candy can stick to the teeth long after people are done eating them. Bacteria in the mouth feed off the sugar in these candies and produce acid, which in turn can cause cavities and other mouth problems
- Example: lollipops, suckers
- Similar to sticky candy, these types of candies take extended amounts of time to dissolve, thus the mouth is exposed to sugar for a long period of time.
- Example: lemon drops, sour straws
- Higher acid content in sour candy makes the mouth more acidic and breaks down the tooth enamel quickly. This highly acidic environment leads to a much greater risk for tooth damage.
- Example: chocolate bar
- Various studies have shown that chocolate is less harmful for teeth than other sugary foods because of a natural anti-bacterial compound in the cocoa bean which "cancels out" some of the harmful effects of sugar in the mouth
Candy or gum containing xylitol
- Example: Xclear candy, Trident gum, Altoids
- Xylitol is a naturally-based sugar that actually helps prevent cavities. Bacteria in your mouth are unable to ferment xylitol, thus harmful acids are not produced. Xylitol candy, mints and gum are available at most health food stores, online and through your dentist
- Please note: Xylitol is not safe for pets
The best time to eat candy is after a meal because the mouth's saliva is already working to rid the mouth of food and sugar. The worst time would be between meals when there's less saliva production. Therefore, parents should try to regulate when kids eat candy - candy as a mealtime dessert would be much better than candy as a snack between meals.
Kids' teeth are particularly vulnerable for many reasons, a couple of them being: many parents don't know that they should begin brushing kids' teeth as soon as the first baby teeth appear. Also, many kids haven't been trained with proper brushing techniques and it's typical for kids to miss brushing their back teeth, leaving sugar and food behind. Dr. Wood will be able to chat about this in detail, he sees hundreds of children each year and can explain in more detail why kids' teeth are particularly vulnerable.
For more information about the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry visit: www.dental.pacific.edu
About Dr. Jeffrey Wood:
Dr. Wood is the Chair of the pediatric department at University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry here in San Francisco.