There's really nothing in childhood that compares to trick-or-treating. Dressing up and going around to all of your neighbors getting free candy is a dream. Binge-eating a pillowcase full of peanut butter cups and candy corn while you're dressed as Wonder Woman or the Incredible Hulk is kind of the point of Halloween, isn’t it? But we all know that candy isn’t the healthiest snack on the block – even if you promise to brush and floss when you finally finish stuffing your face.
Sadly, the only candy out there that doesn’t contribute to tooth decay and cavities is probably sugar-free gum. But kids are not knocking on your neighbors’ doors in search of chewing gum, are they? Learn more about the negative effects your favorite candy can have on your teeth or—if you’re impatient—scroll to the bottom of the page to find out the worst!
Examples: Hershey Bar, 3 Musketeers, M&Ms & Peanut Butter Cups
If you’re a chocoholic, you’re in luck. As long as you’re eating a simple bar of chocolate without caramel or many other ingredients, you’re getting a snack that will wash off your teeth fairly easily. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, even has some health benefits! It’s an iron-packed source of antioxidants that may improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease, and improve brain function.
Chocolate is probably the best candy for your teeth. But remember, moderation is the goal here. Too much of anything is bad for you.
Examples: Sour Patch Kids, Warheads, SweeTarts & Pixie Stix
Sour candy has a higher acidic content than other types of candy. It’s probably no surprise to you, but eating something like Pixie Stix–which are nothing more than flavored sugar you don’t even have to chew–doesn’t provide any nutritional value and can lead to cavities in addition to blood sugar issues.
If you’re going to indulge with sour candies, try rinsing with a glass of water afterward to wash away the cavity-causing acidity contained in these mouth-puckering bites.
Examples: Jolly Ranchers, Runts, Lemon Heads & Lifesavers
Hard candy like lollipops and jawbreakers is just as bad for you as sour candy, and for many of the same reasons. Because we often suck on hard candy to get it to dissolve, it is in our mouths much longer than other Halloween candy. This just leaves more time for sugars to attack and break down tooth enamel.
If hard candy is a habit for you, we don’t have a lot of good news to share. Try switching to sugar-free gum when you get that urge. And of course remember to rinse after you’re finished with hard candy, even if it’s just tap water.
GUMMY AND CHEWY CANDIES
Examples: Gummy Bears, Swedish Fish, Bit-O-Honey & Mary Janes
Like we mentioned above, about the only candy you really want to be chewing on is sugar-free gum. The mixture of sugar and gelatin in gummy bears and worms is very acidic and will wear down tooth enamel, which can lead to exposed nerves and sensitive teeth.
Hey. We love Haribo Gold Bears just as much as the next person, but let’s try and limit ourselves to one bag a week. We can live with that, right? Hopefully. Maybe. Let’s just say we’ll give it a shot.
TAFFY OR CARAMEL
Examples: Caramel Chews, Saltwater Taffy & Riesen
The worst halloween candy for your teeth is a tie between taffy and caramel. These bite-sized, sticky morsels of pure sugar get trapped in the grooves of your teeth and are more difficult to rinse away with salvia or water than the average candy. When sugar like what’s inside taffy or caramel gets stuck to teeth, it creates excess bacteria in your mouth which allows acids to thrive and develop into tooth decay. Caramel also contains small amounts of saturated fat, which increases your risk of heart disease.
The worst part of very sticky Halloween candies is that they can pull out fillings, bridges or braces! If you’ve got an orthodontic appliance or fillings, it is best to just stay away entirely.
Examples: Atomic Fireballs, Red Hot Cinnamon Imperials, Jelly Belly Cinnamon Jelly
Candy containing artificial cinnamon can cause burning sensations and ulcers in the mouth, resulting in physical agony and frustration, Artificial cinnamon is an irritant, a caustic substance that can dry out and irritate the oral soft tissue lining, resulting in inflamed taste buds and a burning sensation of the tongue and tissue in the mouth. In some people, the condition is caused by excessive contact of artificial cinnamon with the tissues; in others it is due to an allergic reaction to artificial cinnamon which can develop suddenly.
Finally, the treat no one wants: anything that’s not candy. Though it's been said many times, it bears repeating: Halloween is for the enjoyment of candy like no other day of the year. Not apples. Not popcorn. Not granola bars. And not toothbrushes, wait, I mean… slipping in a toothbrush with some candy is ok too! Have a fun and safe trick-or-treat this Halloween season.