Since this blog will hit our website on the Friday before Halloween, it’s a good time to discuss candy and teeth. At Gentle Dental, we’re not one of those practices that rains on Halloween, offering to pay kids for their candy and what not. Besides, in this weirdest of years, Halloween and school is odd enough for kids without having a stigma about it.
Still, kids will probably hear this from their Aunt Edna from Scobeyville: “Eating candy will rot your teeth, you know!”
Is that true? Is candy truly the culprit behind tooth decay and damage? During this spooky time of this spookiest of all years, let’s get into how decay really works.
Is sugar the culprit?
If you ate candy all day every day, you wouldn’t be doing your body any favors, but would it make all of your teeth fall out due to decay? No. Sugar doesn’t cause decay; bacteria do.
Say what? It’s true. Dental cavities, known to our Gentle Dental dentists as caries, are formed when bacteria living in the mouth digest carbohydrate debris left on the teeth after you eat. True, this debris can be refined sugar from cookies, candy, and such, but it can also come from other foods.
When bacteria munch on your leftover carb debris, they produce an acid that combines with saliva to form a film on your teeth: plaque. Plaque is what leads to tooth decay, not sugar. Go tell your Aunt Edna that when she’s scolding you for eating the 18th sugar cookie at your holiday get together!
Plaque is the enemy
Plaque starts building up on your teeth after every meal. If left to its own devices, it begins to erode the outer enamel on your teeth, resulting in tiny holes. This is the start of a cavity. In the early stages, your teeth can use minerals from your saliva and fluoride from your water or toothpaste to remineralize the teeth. This doesn’t replace enamel — that is impossible, despite some claims you may hear on TV from certain dental products — but the minerals strengthen the enamel to better protect it from the ravages of plaque and bacteria.
In the end, sugar is just one of many carbs that can lead to tooth decay. Swearing off a tasty Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup won’t necessarily mean you’ll never get a cavity. It’s all about your home hygiene, brushing for two minutes twice a day and flossing once a day. Do that and you can have your cake and eat it too.