PELHAM, N.Y. The average American consumes 180 pounds of sugar and 24.7 pounds of candy per year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, statistics that bring us right to Halloween only a few Snickers bars away. For most children, this means gobs of Gobstompers that will keep them sugared up till the spring thaw. But for parents, Oct. 31 means a grab bag of health challenges.
Dr. Howard Baskin, a dentist in Pelham, said children should avoid sugar to prevent cavities. But different types of candies cause different levels of damage. Baskin said sticky, gooey candies, including gummy bears, are the worst type for teeth but other, softer types are less harmful.
"The least damaging candy would be something like milk chocolate that melts," Baskin said.
The dentist encouraged parents to have children brush their teeth after eating candy, as they should after all other meals, to get the sugar off of their teeth. An absence of candy would be best, but Baskin had advice for parents for the sugar-filled day.
"If parents are going to allow their children to have candy, they should limit the amount and they should try and limit it to the least damaging," Baskin said.
Halloween candy and other sugary foods should be consumed with meals because saliva production increases while eating. This helps neutralize acids produced by bacteria in the mouth and helps rinse away food particles.
Hard candy and sweets that stay in the mouth for a long time should be avoided. The length of time food remains in the mouth plays a role in hastening tooth decay. Unless it is sugar-free, hard candy subjects teeth to prolonged acid attack, which increases risk for tooth decay.
Avoid sticky candies that cling to the teeth, including taffy and gummy bears, among others. These confections take longer to get washed away by saliva and increase the risk for tooth decay. Also, experts say to drink more water fluoridated if possible. Fluoridated water can help prevent tooth decay.
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