You’ve heard it from everyone for as long as you can remember: Candy will rot your teeth! Yes – too much candy is bad for your teeth, but what exactly does this mean? Your mouth contains naturally occurring bacteria, called streptococcus. That bacteria loves to feed on sugar, and once it does, it breaks it down into acids that eat away at tooth enamel. Most parts of your teeth are usually fairly safe from these acids – they’re washed away when you drink water or brush your teeth. However, you can run into problems when the sugar and then the acid in turn get lodged in the crevices of your teeth and along the gum line where bacteria have more time to cause damage to your teeth.

The real danger is the exposure time the sugar has in your mouth. The amount of sugar you ingest isn’t necessarily a determining factor in whether you’ll get a cavity; it’s more about how long the sugars remain in your mouth. For this reason, soft candies like caramel can be particularly bad because they stick to your teeth and can hang on for a longer period of time.

There are things you can do to prevent this sugar-breakdown process from happening – brush or wash your mouth out with water after you’ve had candy, brush at least three times each day and floss at least once – but the only gaurunteed way to keep sugar from damaging your teeth is to not eat it. Many popular candies have sugar-free versions, usually sweetened with xylitol, a sugar substitute that the streptococcus bacteria in your mouth can’t break down.

Remember the old adage – everything in moderation. Develop good dental habits and make sure to regularly visit your dentist.

For parents this Halloween is especially important to remain vigilant in monitoring our childerens’ sugar intake and making sure their teeth remain clean – if they are old enough to brush all we may need to do is remind them but for little ones it is critical that we stay on top of brushings.