Which Kind of Candy Are You Giving Out This Halloween? cbg|CONFIDENT Advises, Not All Treats Are Created Equal

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Even the healthiest diets are tempted by chocolate and sweet treats when Halloween rolls around. While no sweets are good for teeth, the stickier the candy, the worse it is for your teeth, and fast-melting calcium-rich chocolate has some merit as a Halloween treat.

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While no sweets are good for teeth, some are less harmful than others.

Trick-or-treating’s candy haul is just around the corner, and a recent survey found 80 percent of parents admit to eating the candy from their kids’ Halloween haul. Although candy consumption is almost unavoidable this time of year, the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) wants parents and children to know that not all sweet treats are created equal. Some can wreak havoc on your teeth. And it doesn't matter whether you’re an adult or a child; cavities don’t discriminate.

So what candy should you choose for trick or treaters? Dr. Linda Vidone, dental director of Delta Dental of Massachusetts says that when picking out Halloween candy, choose candy that melts and disappears quickly. The general rule is that the stickier the candy, the worse it is for your teeth. “The longer teeth are exposed to sugar, the longer bacteria can feed on it, which can produce cavity-causing acid,” she says. “It’s best to avoid letting kids snack on candy throughout the day.” Vidone says that it’s extremely important that kids brush their teeth or at least rinse with water after eating sweets.

This is good news for chocolate lovers, as chocolate is regarded as a better candy option, as long as it’s a “plain” variety, without fruit or nuts. Chocolate dissolves quickly in the mouth, which decreases the amount of time sugar stays in contact with teeth and the calcium in chocolate can potentially help protect tooth enamel. Dark chocolate and its antioxidants, according to some studies, can be good for the heart and may even lower blood pressure.

However, chocolate with fillings, such as caramel or nuts, is much more harmful for teeth, as it is harder to chew. "Of course, dentists do not advocate that children eat large amounts of sugary treats, but it is that time of year, so we want to clarify for parents which treats are (relatively) better for their kids' teeth and which ones may increase the risk of developing cavities," says AGD spokesperson Cynthia Sherwood, DDS, FAGD.

Here are five options ranked from best to worst:

1. Sugar-free candy and gum with xylitol
Sugar-free foods don’t contain sugar that can feed on bacteria in the mouth and produce decay-causing acids. Sugar-free gum may be the best treat this Halloween season because it leaves no sticky residue, and it is sweetened with xylitol—-a natural sugar the bacteria is unable to form plaque on. Sugar-free gum can actually prevent cavities as it not only dislodges food particles from between the teeth but also increases saliva—which works to neutralize the acids of the mouth and prevent tooth decay. "A dry mouth allows plaque to build up on teeth faster, leading to an increased risk of cavities," Dr.Sherwood says.

Gum and candy with xylitol may actually protect teeth by reducing the acids produced by bacteria and increasing saliva to rinse away excess sugars and acids.

2. Powdery candy
Sure, powdery candy, such as Pixie Stix, is packed with pure sugar, but the texture allows it to dissolve quickly which prevents sugar from sticking to teeth and producing acids and bacteria.

3. Chocolate
Chocolate melts quickly. Choose your favorite variety: milk, dark or white. Be sure to choose the plain variety because chocolate with fillings, such as nuts or caramel, are more harmful to your teeth. Delta Dental’s survey says 86 percent of kids eat chocolate at Halloween. Peanut butter cups are similar to chocolate in that they disappear fast.

4. Hard candy
Hard candy is tough on teeth because it stays in your mouth for an extended period of time, which ultimately coats teeth with sugar. Additionally, biting down on hard candy can chip or break teeth. Sour candies have high acid levels that break down tooth enamel, especially the soft enamel of young children.

5. Chewy candy
Chewy, sticky treats are particularly damaging because they are high in sugar, spend a prolonged amount of time stuck to teeth, get stuck in the teeth easily and are more difficult for saliva to break down. Candy corn, a seasonal favorite, is laden with sugar that produces acid that eats away at your teeth.

"Parents should closely monitor their children's candy intake this Halloween—and all year round—and continue to promote good oral health habits," Dr. Sherwood says. "Kids also should be brushing their teeth twice a day for two minutes."

While no sweets are good for teeth, some are less harmful than others. It’s hard for most of us to resist, but make informed choices and protect teeth.

About cbg
For over 15 years, insurance professionals, employer groups and individuals have turned to cbg|CONFIDENT for help with their individual and small group insurance needs. cbg provides product development, marketing and program management expertise to insurance carriers, distributors and consumers for dental, vision, life, and disability products. (http://www.capital-benefits.com)

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