Sugar and Tooth Decay: The Real Story

Halloween is a tradition that candy-loving children look forward to each year. What could be better than dressing up as your favorite character and collecting a ton of sugary goodies to enjoy for weeks after?

This annual holiday has divided parents and their kids for years: The kids want to enjoy massive quantities of candy, while the parents fret over the impending dental bills. How bad is sugar for your children’s teeth? Unfortunately, it's pretty damaging. But what is it about this sweet substance that wreaks such havoc?

Sugar and Fermentation

It isn’t that sugar itself is particularly bad for your children’s teeth; it’s what happens to sugar once it meets the inside of the mouth. Sugar is a highly fermentable natural substance. What that means is that it breaks down very quickly inside the mouth instead of in the digestive tract like other foods. It’s actually the bacteria inside the mouth that breaks down the sugar. As your child chews on all the chocolaty goodness that snack-sized candy bar has to offer, the bacteria in his or her mouth converts the sugar into acid, and it’s this acid that causes tooth decay.

The Acid Factor

You’ve likely seen how acid can eat through metal substances; it does just the same with teeth. Acid breaks down a tooth’s structure through the process of decalcification and demineralization. Decalcification means the tooth’s calcium ions are destroyed; demineralization means the tooth’s pores are enlarged. The combination of calcium loss and pore enlargement eats away at the tooth’s enamel and interior. The result is tooth decay. You know the rest…cavities or possibly worse, all from that fun-filled night of trick-or-treating. So, what can you do?

Preventing Tooth Decay to Allow the Fun

You don’t want to tell your children they can’t trick-or-treat, and you can’t tell your neighbors to hand out just healthy foods. So how do you and your children meet in the middle? You take simple steps to prevent the acid from decaying your children’s teeth after they’ve eaten some Halloween candy. Have your children rinse out their mouths with water immediately after eating candy. If the municipal water source fluoridates your tap water, even better! Make certain your kids brush their teeth with a fluoride-enhanced toothpaste morning and night and, of course, ensure that you keep your children on a regular dental check-up regime to ensure their teeth are cavity-free and healthy.

Following these simple steps and using common sense ensures that your children can enjoy all that Halloween has to offer without you worrying dental decay. And let’s be honest: How can you sneak a chocolate bar here and there if your kids haven’t been out trick or treating? The young ones aren’t the only ones who should enjoy Halloween!