Don't Let the Sugar Monsters Catch You This Halloween

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Dentists don't want to put a damper on the Halloween fun; they just want to help patients avoid cavities. As the American Dental Association (ADA) prepares to kick off its 154th Annual Session in New Orleans on Halloween, dentists want to offer some candy-eating tips that will help keep cavity-causing sugar monsters at bay.

"Avoid snacking on candy and drinking sugary beverages throughout the day," advises Jonathan Shenkin, DDS, an ADA pediatric dentist spokesperson who practices in Augusta, Maine. "The plaque on your teeth contains bacteria that feeds on sugar and releases acid that attacks teeth. Continual sipping and snacking subjects your teeth to continuous acid attacks which could lead to the breakdown of tooth enamel that might eventually lead to cavities."

Instead of snacking and sipping all day, Dr. Shenkin recommends eating candy and drinking sugary beverages with meals. Saliva production increases during a meal, rinsing food particles from the mouth and neutralizing plaque acid which helps prevent tooth decay.

Dr. Shenkin said it's not only how often you eat, but it's also what you eat that might spook your teeth.

"Beware of candies like gummies and taffy, which stick to your teeth longer than something like chocolate, which easily washes away with saliva or by rinsing," he says. "Also, remember that hard sugary candies remain in the mouth longer, giving bacteria more time to create acid that weakens tooth enamel."

The ADA offers the following tips to help reduce tooth decay and still enjoy Halloween:

Get those juices flowing: Consider chewing ADA Accepted sugarless gum after meals. Certain sugarless gums have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance for scientifically proving that chewing the gum for 20 minutes after meals helped prevent tooth decay.

Go with the flow: Drinking optimally fluoridated water has been shown to reduce cavities from 20 to 40 percent.

Take 3: Floss once a day, brush for 2-minutes twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste and eat three healthy meals a day.

Check out those vitamins: Eating calcium-rich foods such as cheese, leafy greens and almonds are good for the teeth. Protein-rich foods such as meat, eggs and fish are good sources of phosphorus. Both of these minerals can help rebuild tooth enamel and bone.

Take a trip: Visit your dentist regularly.

To keep the mouth-healthy message going throughout this frightfully fun Halloween, ask your little ghouls and goblins to check out the ADA's spooky Halloween-themed retro video series Throwback Tooth Day (#TBT). These videos are classic public service announcements from the 1960s through the 1980s that are available on MouthHealthy.org, the ADA's consumer website, the ADA's YouTube channel as well as the ADA's Facebook and Twitter pages.