- Dentists warn gorging on sweets could cause cavities and mouth blisters
- Toffees, sour sweets and boiled sweets are some of the worst offenders
Confiscate the sour and hard-boiled Trick or Treat sweets this Halloween.
That is the advice of dentists, anyway, who say they are the worst options for your child’s teeth.
Some types can contain a whopping 17g of sugar per handful.
Once sugar is broken down in the mouth, it can turn into harmful acid that destroys enamel — the hard outer covering of a tooth. Plus, the combination of acid and saliva can cause plaque to form.
But parents shouldn’t be too alarmed about seeing a pile of chocolate bars in their kid’s basket this Tuesday night, experts also say.
Dr Richard Marques, a Harley Street-based dentist, said: ‘Chocolate tends to be slightly better for teeth than sweets due its ability to wash off the teeth and leave less sugar residue than sweets.
‘Pure, dark chocolate is the best chocolate choice over milk chocolate bars when it comes to your teeth as it generally contains less sugar and more antioxidants.’
But it is not just what sweets you eat but how you eat them.
It may sound strange, but gorging on chocolate and jelly sweets may be better than spreading out the haul of sweets.
‘Having a pack of sweets in one go, say 30 minutes, isn’t as bad as having the same pack of sweets slowly over the day’, said London-based dentist Dr Deepak Aulak.
The mouth needs time to balance its pH to combat the sugars, he explained. Sugar lowers the mouth’s pH, making it more acidic, which breaks down tooth enamel.
‘If you slowly have sweets — like those that require long eating time — that’s worse for the mouth — and it’s defence against the sugar’, he says.
Dr Aulak added: ‘Anything with high sugar and a sticky consistency that can get stuck between teeth will naturally be the worst.’
Toffees, such as Cadbury Chocolate Eclairs, are an example of these sorts of sweets. They contain 17g per five sweets.
The NHS says children aged four to six should have no more than 19g of free sugars — those added to food or drinks — while seven to 10-year-olds should have no more than 24g.
Dr Sam Jethwa, a Buckinghamshire-based dentist, recommends avoiding any sweets that are ‘particularly sticky’ as these will ‘stay on the surface of the tooth the longest and can also be difficult to remove’.
He also recommends avoiding hard boiled sweets.
These are ‘held in the mouth the longest which means the mouth is more exposed to sugar’, while biting into them can lead to cracks or chips in teeth, Dr Jethwa said.
Swizzels Trick or Treat Lolly Mix, which contain chewy Drumstick sweets and hard-boiled lollipops, fit into this category. They contain 15g of sugar per two lollies.
Sour sweets can also cause an increase in tooth sensitivity and cavities.
Dr Marques said these are one of the ‘worst choice of sweets’ for tooth damage.
This is due to ‘the sheer astronomical levels of acid’ they contain, which has the potential to wear down enamel faster than other sweets.
‘Consumption of sour sweets can cause tooth sensitivity, increased cavities and translucent looking teeth,’ he said.
‘In other parts of the month, eating sour sweets can also cause damage to taste buds, mouth blisters and burns.’
These sorts of sweets are packed with sugar. There is 16g per seven Sour Patch Kids sweets, for example.
Dr Marques recommends dishing out low-sugar options on Halloween to reduce the impact on teeth.
He suggests offering sugar-free gum, jelly sweets and yoghurt-covered fruit, as well as popcorn and granola bars drizzled with dark chocolate.
Making sure children drink water after eating sweets to return the mouth’s pH levels to normal and brush their teeth to dislodge debris is vital, says Dr Jethwa.
Although children do not have their teeth for life, their milk teeth still need to be taken care of, dentists warn.
‘A lot of people think that because a child still has their milk teeth, the implications of sugar on the teeth cannot matter too much. But tooth decay can still occur’, says Dr Jethwa.
‘Symptoms of tooth decay can include tooth sensitivity, swelling and pain. In some cases, tooth decay can cause problems with the growth of the adult tooth.’
To help prevent the horrors of cavities and gum disease, dentists say children should brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste before and after eating sweets.
Dr Jethwa suggests going a step further and flossing to get rid of any sticky sweets.
‘A lot of people assume that flossing is just for adults, but as soon as children have teeth which touch together and could get food trapped in between then they should be looking to floss once a day, especially after eating any sweets that are particularly sticky’, he says.