Updated: Nov 6
It’s candy season, aka Halloween month, which is the sweetest month of the year for kids. With all the treats showing up in the stores, at school, and at gatherings, it is good to know how sugar affects teeth and how you can lessen its spooky impact on your children’s oral health.
How sugar affects teeth
When your child eats sugary food or drinks sugary beverages, the sugar reacts to the natural bacteria in their mouth by producing acid. The acid then eats away at tooth enamel, which is the hard protective layer on teeth. When tooth enamel is worn away, teeth are more prone to rotting or developing holes in them, otherwise known as cavities. Gums and other portions of the mouth can develop problems from too much sugar as well.
How much and how long sugar is in the mouth makes a big difference. Consuming small amounts of sugar with regular brushing and flossing will minimize tooth decay. But if your child regularly eats and drinks sugary snacks throughout the day, including soda, chewy candy, or sour candies, and does not brush after consuming them, their risk for cavities goes up quickly.
How to minimize sugary snacks and drinks
We all like the occasional treat, but to prevent your children (and us parents) from eating or drinking too many of them, here are a few tips to keep sugary snacks from being too much of your child’s daily consumption.
Store it strategically. By placing candy and sugary drinks out of sight, you have less temptation to eat or drink them. Store these treats in places like the back of your pantry, the freezer, or a shelf that’s harder to reach so when you do enjoy them, it’s more deliberate.
Plan when the kids can indulge. Enjoying dessert or candy as part of a meal or event allows your kids to look forward to the treat and appreciate it when they have it. The opposite is also true. If your child eats sweets in the car between errands or to and from activities, the treats lose their luster and are consumed more mindlessly. During holidays like Halloween or Easter, enjoy the treats for about a week after, then get rid of them so your kids don’t eat or drink them out of habit.
Choose your preferred treat. Believe it or not, there are a lot of sweet treats your kids can enjoy in moderation. And if your child is enjoying their treat, they will be satisfied. Whether it is candy or chocolate, chewy or crunchy, we list the best and worst choices below.
P.S. You might be surprised by what is on this list!
Candies that are “good” for you.
Peanut m&m’s. Peanuts mean protein, fiber, and good fats!
Snickers. The fun size is the perfect size for this protein filled candy bar.
Reece’s Peanut butter cups. Protein and fiber with chocolate. Yum! The two pack is too perfect!
Blow pops. These have less sugar and a gum center, so you can enjoy it longer.
Candies that aren’t worth it.
Smarties. While lower in calories, this purely sugar treat is lacking any nutrition.
Candy corn. These have double the amount of sugar as Snickers or Reece’s butter cups!
Gummy bears. Sticky and only full of sugar, which won’t provide any lasting satisfaction.
Jellybeans. Same thing. Sweet and sticky with no nutrition.
Airheads. On top of being only sugar, these treats contain artificial colors and flavors.
For all of the above listed candies, there are also more natural and plant-based candy options available at local stores and online.