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Posts for tag: candy

By Dr. Bill Kuttler, DDS
October 30, 2016

Since Halloween is here and all of the stores are trying to encourage us to buy big bags of candy to hand out to all the trick or treaters, perhaps it is appropriate to discuss the idea of “good candy” and “bad candy”.  To put it more accurately, if not grammatically, “better candy” and “worse candy” because believe me, there is NO “good candy” even if some of it tastes that way....  There’s a reason that most witches and Jack O Lanterns are missing teeth...

Why am I such a killjoy on the subject of candy?  It’s estimated that the average person in the United States consumes about 130 pounds of sugar every year.  That adds up to over 1/3 pound per day per person.  If you put that into a pile of sugar cubes, it’s a pretty big pile!  And we all know that there is LOTS of sugar in candy.  So what? you might say.  Well, first, ignore dental health.  Our country is facing an epidemic of obesity – and lots of that excess fat is coming from sugar.  The number of kids who are overweight is skyrocketing, and unfortunately, habits that start when we’re kids often carry over into our adult lives.  Consider also the rapid increase in people who have diabetes and related health issues – there is strong evidence linking that increase to the increased consumption of sugar.

But since I’m a dentist, I’m not going to ignore dental health entirely.  Every time we consume sugar, acid is produced in our mouths, and it only takes about 20 seconds.  Then it remains in our mouths for about 30 MINUTES.  Since most candy is consumed between meals, and often at a fairly leisurely pace, that can account for a lot of HOURS of acid exposure in our mouths.  That’s what produces cavities.  While that may be good for my business, it most definitely isn’t good for anyone’s health!

Having made what I believe is a convincing case AGAINST sugar and candy, I’m also a realist.  I admit it, I eat sugar too, and I enjoy it.  I simply work at picking how much and when I choose to eat it.  There are definitely better and worse times and ways to consume it.

The best time to consume sugar (and believe me it is contained in an amazing number of foods and beverages – try reading the labels on everything you buy for a week) is with meals.  If that was the only time you had any sugar in your diet, you’d probably be consuming far less than the average person, AND you’d be doing far less damage to your body and your teeth!  So the “when” is fairly easy.  If you do slip in a “treat” between meals, consume it quickly – that will reduce the amount of time your mouth is exposed to it, so you’ll be reducing the amount of damage that is done to your teeth.

Now, I hope the title of this article kept you reading to this point.  So I’ll answer the question that you’ve probably been hoping for – what’s “good” candy?  First, eat candy that moves through your mouth quickly.  That means avoiding sticky items (sorry, but that means avoiding caramel apples!), or candy that is designed for you to suck on over a prolonged period.  Items that are tart stimulate saliva flow, and that helps to reduce the damage that the sugar causes.  Chocolate, some research has shown, is a good alternative.  There are some positive aspects to chocolate that help make up for the negatives.  That is especially true for dark chocolate – there’s actually some solid research that says dark chocolate is actually good for you (depending upon your other health concerns, of course).  When all else fails, choose moderation – I find that’s almost always a good decision....  

Oh, and please don’t forget to brush and clean between your teeth when you’re done eating – no matter what it is!  It’s a great habit to get into!

By Bill Kuttler, DDS
October 26, 2013

The “magic” night is almost here, and if you are not an actual ghost or goblin, you know that Halloween is THE night for children to be on the prowl for treats — mostly high sugar ones! And that means that parents and grandparents need to be ready to deal with the onslaught of candy and hyper kids.

Are there dental consequences? Absolutely! Are they gigantic? Probably not IF there are some steps taken to minimize the issues. First (and this isn’t a news flash) sugar isn’t good for us — not for our dental health and not for our total health. Keeping sugar usage minimal and raising kids to like fresh fruits and vegetables is key.

But Halloween will arrive, and the kids will come home with bags of goodies. I know some parents who take it and parcel it out over the next several days or weeks. I know others that let their children eat all they want for a day or two and then get rid of the rest. (I even know some parents who’ve been known to “save” their kids from all that candy by eating it themselves!)

While I understand the logic of both approaches, the latter one is actually better from a dental perspective. Exposure time to sugar (even one bite!) is the main issue to the potential of cavities developing. Every time someone consumes sugar or other carbohydrates, the sugars provide enough nutrition to the bacteria to keep them generating acid for at least a half hour. If the substance is retentive (sticky), it stays in the mouth longer, and the acid exposure time is also lengthened.

If people eat all the candy they want for a day or two, the exposure time totals a couple of days. They are also hopefully sick of it by then. If the candy is parceled out over days or weeks, the exposure time is very likely to be greater. It’s also more likely to create a habit where the person wants and expects candy each day. (Please note that I’m not addressing the impact that amount of sugar has on the child’s systemic health which is also NOT positive!)

The accompanying graphic says much of this better than I can. Candy, baked goods, and pop produce problems. But if anyone is going to consume it, there are things that can be done to mitigate the damages. Eating candy with meals at least restricts the exposure times. Have it for dessert! Brushing and flossing after consuming sugar also reduces the exposure times since it eliminates things sticking around. Using fluoride toothpastes will help remineralize the tooth structure that has been demineralized by the acids produced by the bacteria.

So, what’s the bottom line? I believe “moderation in all things” and “timing is everything” are good mottos to live by. As a dentist I’m just glad that Halloween only comes once a year! We’ll be giving out toothbrushes at our house….

This article originally appeared in Dubuque 365ink magazine. It is republished here with permission from the publication.