What are the effects of too much Halloween candy or sugar on teeth and gums?
We are very close to Halloween. I say that Halloween is a little bit of a double whammy, because not only do you get all of this candy and other sweet treats, but you get them in small little packages.
I tell patients all the time, “I don’t care if you have literally a cup of sugar. However, if you have a cup of sugar that you constantly eat slowly throughout the day, it’s got more effect on your teeth than just having it all at once.” The effect on the teeth is that sugar acts as food for the bacteria that cause decay. The longer amount of time that we feed those bacteria that cause decay, the more likely someone is to have effects from those bacteria, meaning decay or periodontal disease. It has much more effect on the bacteria that cause decay as it does for periodontal disease.
Other than not eating candy, how do you recommend dealing with that to prevent bacteria growth?
This is a problem frequently more so not with candies or foods, but with beverages, especially soft drinks or sweetened coffee, sweet tea, anything like that.
I say, if you’re going to eat or consume or drink it, do it at one time. Do it only at mealtimes. Have water in between. The easiest way, especially if someone’s got a very, very busy schedule, is to make sure that they rinse their mouth out afterwards, after eating or consuming any type of sugary beverage or sugary food. That just, at a minimum, sort of rinses it out.
Ideally, we would love patients to brush and floss within about 30 minutes after consuming sugary foods or drink, but it normally takes longer for someone to be able to do that. If somebody is normal and healthy, it usually takes about 30 minutes for our bodies to produce enough saliva to naturally rinse off sugar on teeth and gums.