Every year Dr. Aric and I are asked about our opinions as to Halloween candy, and our recommendations. This year, I decided to do a mini series of blog posts to address the topic in some fun and informative ways.
I personally love Halloween! It is so much fun to see all the children dress up and get so excited to play, and celebrate with their friends. So all of my recommendations will be based on keeping the celebratory spirit of Halloween alive!
There are some Health"tier" options when it comes to Halloween candy!
Here are my recommendations:
1. Sugar Free Pops "Suckers" as we used to call them! These are my favorites! They are made with Xylitol which is a very dental friendly sweetener. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol which can not be fermented, and is therefore useless to oral bacteria as an energy source. Yay! Xylitol is non toxic to humans. Yay! The only downside is, xylitol, and any sugar alcohol for that matter, does have laxative properties if used in excess. Everything in moderation y'all! The study I was looking at showed children having laxative effects after consumption of 65 g of xylitol in one sitting. Now, that is over four lollipops at once. Let's be honest, no one needs four pops at a time. Unless you could use the laxative properties...then by all means help yourself!
2. Sugar Free Gum Sugar free gum needs to be its own post, but until then, here is the short and sweet. My highest recommendation at the time of this writing is Pur gum. My second favorite is Xylitol, and then in third place is a tie between Trident and Orbit. If the gum is not sweetened with Xylitol, I did not even consider it. The first two are more expensive and a little harder to find...especially on short notice. So if you are in a pinch, or you need to purchase a lot...say for Halloween treats, then don't feel guilty about going the Trident/Orbit route! It is still such a great service to participate in the festivities, and not contribute to tooth decay in little ones!
3. Dark Chocolate Ok, if I am going to relent on one "candy" it would most definitely be dark chocolate. The research is irrefutable as to the significant health benefits of cocoa. Cocoa has had signifiant research to show powerful antioxidant effects and cardiovascular benefits. Here is the key though...it needs to be over 70% cocoa and preferably organic. Past that... enjoy in moderation! Here is an option for bulk Halloween candy if you are looking for one. But...here is one of my personal favorites!
4. Non-Edible Treats! Halloween treats do not have to be edible! There are tons of other ways to go to celebrate! See my next blog post for tuns of fun ideas!
5. Moderation I am a firm believer in moderation! It is unrealistic to expect people to never ever have a sweet treat. Especially children, who want to partake in the fun. The key is MODERATION and EDUCATION! Please see the third blog post in this series for ideas to encourage moderation of candy after Halloween.
As for education, here it is in a nut shell.... There is a cycle of acidity happening in your mouth and it all begins with eating fermentable sugars, such as white sugar, honey, milk, carbohydrates, fruit, the list goes on and on and on. Next, you have bacteria living in your mouth... you always have and you always will. Some of you have more naughty ones than others, depending on your oral hygiene practices and personal flora, but that is a topic for a different post. Once you eat a fermentable sugar of any type, the bacteria in your mouth start to have their own meal and break this sugar down into energy for themselves. (They are robbing you!) In this process, the bacteria produce a byproduct of acid. The bacteria are capable of enjoying themselves and producing this acid for approximately 30 minutes before your saliva will win the acidity battle, by washing out the remaining sugars, and using their awesome buffering power. During this cycle, the acidity in your mouth is capable of demineralizing enamel...that means making holes in your teeth! Now...obviously this happens over a period of time...many cycles. But you need to be mindful of this process! This is one of the major contributing factors to why sippers and snackers struggle with decay. This cycle is being restarted with one sip of a soft drink, one potato chip, or .........one piece of Halloween Candy!!!
There is some Halloween Candy to avoid altogether, or be very careful with!
1. Sugary Candy and Treats These treats are obviously the ones that will contribute to a fierce acid cycle, and potentially cause decay, especially if used or eaten irresponsibly. Irresponsibly?? YES!! As in eaten piece by piece, say every 30 minutes or so... all day...for several days after Halloween. OR by eating them without taking immediate action to reverse the damaging effects.
Here are a few ways to reverse the damaging effects of eating sugary snacks.
- Brush immediately with a fluoride toothpaste to help remineralize weakened enamel, making a great attempt at removing remaining sugary food particles.
- Enjoy a cariostatic food to reverse the actions of the sugar cycle, or protect the enamel. These include, proteins, vegetables, and cheese.
- Chew a stick of xylitol gum!
- Drink a large glass of water!
2. Sticky Stuff There are certain treats that fall into this category. These are the jelly beans, gummy candy, camels, and basically anything that will stick to tiny crevices in and between your teeth. Some of this gunk is so sticky that we can still find it malingering even after a good brushing. These types of snacks essentially overpower your salivary defense. Saliva will not win the battle against a sticky caramel lodged between your teeth. Just imagine how many acid cycles are going to repeat before all the caramel is dissolved! This is not a good situation!
3. Sour Candy The problem with sour candies is that they have a combination effect on your teeth. They are participating in the sugar cycle described above with their sugar content, they are almost always sticky, AND they are very acidic. They bring their own acid to the party!! Your saliva is struggling to buffer just the acid from the bacterial fermentation, when you add an acid load on top of this from the candy itself, it absolutely lengthens the time before a normal pH is obtained! No question!! And the longer your enamel is exposed to an acidic environment the more demineralization, or weakening of the enamel is going to happen. It is a direct correlation.
4. Lingering Sugar I consider any treat that lasts longer than a typical chew down LINGERING SUGAR! This includes sugared gum, lollipops, jawbreakers, sugared hard candy, snow cones, and yes....cotton candy. All of these are enjoyed over a period of time. So, as you may have guessed by now, the acid cycles doesn't officially start until you are finished enjoying your treat. Although if you have spent the last half hour enjoying it, that wasn't bonus time for you, that was bonus time for the bacteria!
I really do want everyone to have a wonderful Halloween! I also want you to enjoy it in the healthiest way possible for you and your family! I hope I have educated you a little, made you laugh a little , and possibly given you some insight into healthy alternatives to make it an even healthier celebration that last year!