Halloween Candy: Dental Health Survival Guide

With Halloween comes ghosts, goblins and goodies—and the sugar in those treats can play some unwanted tricks on your teeth if you’re not careful. 

Here’s why: The bacteria in your mouth are probably more excited to eat Halloween candy than you are. When the bacteria eat the sugar and leftover food in your mouth, a weak acid is produced. That acid is what can contribute to cavities. 

But don’t hang up your costume just yet. “Halloween is about candy, dressing up and having fun,” says ADA dentist Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty. “It’s OK to eat that candy on Halloween as a splurge as long as you’re brushing twice a day and flossing once a day all year long.”

To help you sort through the trick-or-treat bag loot, we have a rundown of some common candies and their impact on your teeth:


Chocolate is probably your best bet, which is good because it’s also one of the most popular kinds of candy handed out on Halloween. “Chocolate is one of the better candies because it washes off your teeth easier than other types of candy,” Dr. Ferraz- Dougherty says. “Dark chocolate also has less sugar than milk chocolate.”

Sticky and Gummy Candies

Be picky if it’s sticky. These are some of the worst candies for your teeth. “This candy is harder to remove and may stay longer on your teeth, which gives that cavity-causing bacteria more time to work,” Dr. Ferraz-Dougherty says.

Hard Candy

Hard candies are also ones to watch on Halloween. “They can actually break your teeth if you’re not careful,” Dr. Ferraz- Dougherty says. “You also tend to keep these kinds of candies in your mouth for longer periods of time so the sugar is getting in your saliva and washing over your teeth.”

Sour Candy

You might want to pass on things that make you pucker – especially if they are sticky and coated in sugar. “Sour candy can be very acidic,” says Dr. Ferraz-Dougherty. “And that acidity can weaken and damage the hard outer shell of your teeth, making your teeth more vulnerable to cavities. 

The Benefits of Chewing Gum

When it comes to chewing gum, it's the type of gum you chew that makes a difference in whether it's helpful or harmful to your teeth.  While chewing gum containing sugar may actually increase your chances of developing a cavity, there is clinical evidence that demonstrates just the opposite for sugar-free gum. And there is even better news when it comes to chewing sugar-free gum that is sweetened with xylitol.

Sugar-free Gum Helps Clean Teeth

       Both the act of chewing and the flavor of the artificial sweeteners in the gum stimulate 10 times the normal rate of saliva flow. Not only does the increased saliva flow neutralize the acids in your mouth, it also washes away food particles, helping to keep your teeth clean teeth.

Xylitol Reduces Decay-causing Bacteria

      Sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol has the added benefit of inhibiting the growth of Streptococcus mutans, one of the oral bacteria that cause cavities. In the presence of xylitol, the bacteria lose the ability to adhere to the tooth, stunting the cavity-causing process. With xylitol use over a period of  time, the types of bacteria in the mouth change and fewer decay causing bacteria survive on tooth surfaces.

To Chew or Not to Chew

    Although chewing sugar-free gum can be beneficial in most instances, there are some cases in which chewing gum is not recommended. For example, if you are experiencing any type of jaw pain or temporomandibular disorder symptoms (TMD/TMJ), you should refrain from chewing gum and talk to your dentist about what options are available to you.

For most people, chewing sugar -free gum (especially sweetened with xylitol) can be a good preventative measure in situations when tooth brushing  and flossing aren't practical, but sugar-free or not, chewing gum should never replace good dental hygiene practices.

Information courtesy of the American of General Dentistry and Delta Dental Insurance Company.














Take a Mouth-Healthy Picnic This Summer

This summer, try to get outside and spend some time with your family by having a mouth-healthy picnic! Here are some picnic “must haves” that taste great and help keep your mouth healthy!

Celery, Carrots and Raw Bell Pepper
Raw vegetables like carrots, celery and bell pepper are excellent dipping alternatives to unhealthy chips and crackers. Starchy carbs like potato chips and crackers can stick to your teeth and cause unhealthy acid buildup which can lead to cavities. Fibrous vegetables like celery can actually clean your teeth as you eat! So choose vegetables instead of chips, they are better for your overall health, and won’t stick to your teeth like starchy carbs typically used as dippers.

Greek Yogurt
Yogurt is a fun snack that can serve as a dessert or a base for other tasty treats. When searching for the most healthy yogurt, we suggest going for non-fat Greek yogurt, which contains significantly less fat and sugar than other yogurt. Yogurt contains calcium and protein, both of which help strengthen tooth enamel and protect against cavities.

Yogurt also helps boost gum health. In fact, A Japanese study of 1,000 adults revealed that the healthiest gums were found in those who ate the most yogurt. The good bacteria found in yogurt help to slow the growth of cavity-causing bacteria.

Protip: boost your yogurt by adding some blueberries or strawberries for anti-oxidants and more fiber.

Cheese Plate
Cheese is a dental super food. It is high in calcium, which strengthens teeth, and also contains casein, a protein that helps protect the surface of your teeth. Cheese also stimulates saliva production, which helps rid teeth of bad bacteria that can lead to cavities. Try packing a few different cheeses for your picnic to get a good variety. We suggest a sharp cheddar, gruyere, swiss cheese and bleu. You’ll get a variety of flavors to choose from, and added dental benefits!

Apples are high in water and fiber, which stimulates gums and saliva production. In fact, the fibrous nature of apples helps scrub teeth as they are eaten. We suggest using fresh apple slices as a healthy dessert at the end of your picnic to satisfy your sweet tooth, and help scrub any leftover debris from between your teeth.

Bring Water
Water is one of the best tools we have in keeping our mouths clean, especially fluoridated water, which helps make teeth more resistant to acidic foods. When preparing a picnic, grab a water bottle instead of juice or soda. Also, you can swish water around after you’re done eating to help keep your mouth clean. Swishing water helps remove debris caught in your teeth that can lead to enamel loss and acid buildup.

Freshen Up with Xylitol Gum
It can be difficult to bring a toothbrush to a picnic, so we suggest packing some gum sweetened with Xylitol to help clean up after your picnic. Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener that fights cavities by encouraging immediate saliva production. Saliva cleans teeth of debris, and restores the oral Ph balance to a healthy level.

Eat More Mouth-Healthy Foods
If you’re concerned about your child’s diet, and think that it may be affecting their teeth, then visit our office. We will work with you and discuss mouth-healthy foods that promote beautiful, healthy smiles. We will also work with you to find the treatment plan that best suits your child’s needs for better oral health.

Dental Sealants and Your Child's Oral Health

From the moment teeth start growing in they are exposed to many things that can do damage to them overtime. The chewing surfaces of the molar and premolar teeth have grooves in them, known as fissures. These small spaces make teeth more susceptible to decay as plaque can easily accumulate in these areas. While fluoride toothpaste is recommended to help prevent the decay, dental sealants actually takes protection to a new level. In fact, our assistants make use of these dental sealants to provide a smooth covering over the fissures.

Dental sealants are made out of a thin plastic coating which mold perfectly to the teeth. One may not even notice the sealant is on the tooth, but it makes the surface smooth and clean. The great thing about the dental sealants is that they can last for many years. Of course, there is always the possibility for wear and chipping so with regular dental visits Dr. Mays can keep a watchful eye on them.

You may think dental sealants are only necessary as an adult, but the truth is that all ages groups can benefit from having this protective barrier applied to their teeth. For example:

Occasionally sealants can be applied to baby teeth if deep grooves or depressions are present and a child is cavity prone.

As soon as six-year molars appear (first permanent back teeth) sealants can help protect teeth any time throughout the cavity prone years of 6-16 years of age.

The process to apply the protective sealant only take a few minutes per tooth as it gets painted on in a thin layer and then hardens automatically or with a special curing light.

If you’d like to know more about this process during your next visit, don’t hesitate to let us know! 


Tips for Keeping Mouths Healthy While Eating Sweets

  1. Avoid snacking on candy, as well as drinking sugary beverages, throughout the day. Instead, enjoy these treats after mealtimes, as increased saliva production from a meal will help prevent tooth decay.

  2. Be wary of chewy candies like taffy, which stick to your teeth longer than chocolate, and hard candies that take longer to consume.  The longer a sugary food is in your mouth, the higher the risk for tooth decay.
  3. Choose sugarless gum as a candy alternative, as chewing sugarless gum after meals helps reduce tooth decay by increasing saliva flow that helps wash out food and dental plaque bacteria.
  4. Balance out the increase of sugary candies by avoiding sugary beverages such as soda and sports drinks. Instead, drink fluoridated water, which can help reduce cavities by 20 to 40 percent.
  5. Eating foods that are calcium-rich (such as leafy greens, cheese and almonds) and protein-rich (such as meat, eggs, fish and beans) can help rebuild tooth enamel and bone.

Are Your Children's Drinks Harming Their Teeth?

The average American consumes 22 grams of sugar per day, which is double the recommended daily amount. All of that sugar does considerable damage to tooth enamel and can lead to cavities and other oral issues. Some of the beverages we consume are surprisingly high in sugar. Below are some of the best – and worst – drinks for your teeth.

Drinks that Help Your Teeth


Water – especially water with fluoride – helps strengthen and clean teeth. With every sip, water cleans your teeth by ridding them of any leftover foods or acids. It also washes away bacteria and sugars that can eventually lead to cavities. Water has zero calories, and helps restore the Ph balance in your mouth to fight unhealthy levels of acid.


Milk and other dairy products are rich in calcium, which strengthens bones and teeth. Milk also contains a protein called casein – a substance that helps fight tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel. The calcium and phosphorous in milk also strengthen and repair tooth enamel that has dissolved due to acid.

Low Sugar Vegetable Juice

Vegetables are some of the healthiest foods you could possibly eat, so it makes sense then that vegetable juice would improve your oral health. When buying – or making – vegetable juice, make sure that you limit the percentage of fruit in the juice, since fruits are high in sugar. Typically, dark green vegetable juices are better for your teeth. Juice that has kale, or spinach contain healthy B vitamins that can help fight against gum disease. Leafy greens are also high in calcium, which boosts your enamel health.

If you want your vegetable juice to be a bit sweeter, look for juices containing small amounts of apple or carrots, as they are sweet and healthy in moderation.




Drinks that Hurt Your Teeth

Fruit Juices

Fruit juices are often chosen as an alternative to sugary sodas, but did you know that some juices have as much sugar as the leading colas? Apple juice has as much as 10 tsp. of sugar per serving, which is the exact amount as the leading brand cola. The sugar and citric acids in fruit juice can lead to tooth decay. If you must drink juice, you can lower the sugar by cutting it with water. Alternatively, you can look for low sugar juice options as well.

Sports Drinks

Sports drinks can also contain more sugar than leading cola beverages, with as much as 19 grams of sugar per serving. Additionally, sports drinks contain an unhealthy amount of sodium (salt) which can be as much as a bag of potato chips per bottle. Sports drinks can eat away at tooth enamel, and can contain very unhealthy amounts of calories.


The gold standard of “terrible for teeth” are soft drinks. Sodas are awful for teeth because they are high in two of the worst things for teeth: sugar and acid. There are some sodas that contain more than the total recommended amount of daily sugar in one 20 oz. bottle! The high sugar and acid content can eat away the enamel that protects your teeth, and can lead to cavities. Consuming too much soda can cause irreparable harm to your body in the form of diabetes and other diseases. Your best bet is to stay away from sodas all together to avoid exposing your teeth to unhealthy levels of sugar and acid.

How to Help Reduce Negative Effects

If your child does drink sugary beverages, then they can help curb some of the negative effects by swishing water around in their mouth once they’re finished. Additionally, they should brush their teeth twice per day for two minutes at a time and floss once per day to remove debris between their teeth.

Visit Our Office

If you are worried that your child is drinking too much soda, or if they are beginning to complain of sensitive teeth that may be related to consuming too many sugary drinks, then visit our office. We will evaluate your child’s smile and determine a treatment plan that’s best.


To Floss or Not To Floss??

Recently, a number of articles have come out questioning the benefits of flossing since it was removed from the most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines.  Many of you have asked us whether daily flossing is still needed, which is a great question!

Our answer is…. Absolutely!!

The American Dental Association (ADA) is standing by the practice of flossing, explaining that the change is not a reflection of its importance, rather a change in focus of the dietary guidelines. They continue to recommend daily flossing referencing a statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published on August 4th, stating that:

“Flossing is an important oral hygiene practice. Tooth decay and gum disease can develop when plaque is allowed to build up on teeth and along the gum line.  Professional cleaning, tooth brushing, and cleaning between teeth (flossing and the use of other tools such as interdental brushes) have been shown to disrupt and remove plaque.”

A toothbrush can’t reach the points where two teeth touch, so those areas need additional cleaning to avoid cavities and inflammation. Whether you prefer to use regular floss or a floss pick– try to clean between your child’s teeth every night.

We look forward to seeing your smile soon!