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Delta Dental Foundation gives advice on Halloween candy

(Radio Iowa) – The tasty treats Iowans throw in the bags of little masked Halloween visitors tonight may be helping to make their smiles more closely resemble jack-o-lanterns.

Suzanne Heckenlaible, of the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation, says some types of candy are worse than others. Heckenlaible says, “Chewy treats still have high sugar but they also have a prolonged amount of time they stick to the teeth and make it more difficult for the saliva to break down.” The longer teeth are exposed to sugar, the longer bacteria can feed on it, which can produce cavity-causing acid.

If treat givers haven’t already bought their bags of goodies to give away, she says there are other candies to avoid. “Hard candy does tend to stick on the teeth longer because it’s in the mouth for a longer period of time,” Heckenlaible says. “Plus, chomping down on hard candy can chip or break a tooth.” If you don’t want to be one of “those” people by giving out toothbrushes to trick-or-treaters, she suggests another tooth-friendly alternative.

“Many of the choices that you have for gum have xylitol and are sugar free,” Heckenlaible says. “The xylitol actually protects the teeth by reducing the acids produced by the bacteria and increasing saliva to rinse away the excess sugar in the mouth and the acids.”

Some candy may get the little goblins wired, but at least the sweet treats won’t contribute to tooth decay. Heckenlaible says, “The powdery candy, such as the sugar straws, even though they’re packed with pure sugar, they quickly dissolve and don’t tend to stick on the teeth.”

Chocolate can be a mixed bag, as it dissolves quickly in the mouth and can be eaten easily, which decreases the amount of time sugar stays in contact with teeth. However, chocolate with fillings, like caramel and nuts, is a lot more harmful for teeth than the plain variety. She says the best way to protect teeth from decay is to have candy in small portions at limited times, like after a meal, as dessert or at regular snack times.