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N.C. Dentists: Don’t Play Tricks on Your Teeth this Halloween

Ghosts and goblins will soon be going door to door looking for candy and other treats. But with cavities on the rise in young children, North Carolina dentists urge caution.
“Excessive sugar intake is the main culprit,” says Greenville, N.C., dentist, Dr. Randy Fussell. “It’s okay to consume candy in moderation, but children and their parents should take extra precautions to prevent tooth damage.”
“When sugar in Halloween candy comes into contact with plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth and gums," (he/she) explains, “they produce acid that attacks the teeth for 20 minutes or more. Repeated acid attacks can cause tooth enamel to breakdown, eventually resulting in tooth decay."
"Sticky candies such as gummies and taffy adhere to your teeth longer than something like chocolate, which easily washes away with saliva or rinsing. Hard sugary candies are held in the mouth longer, giving bacteria in the mouth more time to create acid that weakens tooth enamel," says Dr. Fussell. Dr. Fussell, who volunteers for the N.C. Dental Society’s “Give Kids A Smile!” free clinic program each year, says that lack of regular oral care among some of the state’s underserved children can make the problem even worse. “Unless there are regular dental checkups, too much  sugar can lead to rampant tooth decay and the need to extract a number of teeth in these clinics.”
One way to deal with this problem is to eat sweets with meals rather than as snacks, and avoid between-meal snacks when possible. Saliva production increases during a meal, helping to rinse food particles from the mouth and neutralize plaque acid.
Another problem arises with hard candy. “We see a lot of broken and cracked teeth this time of year caused by children and adults biting down on hard candy. It’s best not to chew this type of candy, but rather let it dissolve in the mouth and then rinse and brush afterwards.”
Halloween treats also present problems for wearers of braces and other dental appliances. “Soft candy and some types of chewing gum can get trapped and cause decay. Again, the best policy is to rinse, brush and floss frequently after candy is consumed.”
Costume accessories also can cause issues.  “TV shows, movies and books featuring vampires have made vampire teeth popular at Halloween,” says Dr. Fussell. “Wearing vampire-looking mouthpieces for an extended amount of time may irritate gums.
Food and other debris also may become trapped under the mouth piece, leading to plaque build-up that can cause cavities and gum inflammation. These bacteria also may contribute to bad breath.” "Wearing a mouthpiece for a short period of time for a costume party is fine," adds Dr. Fussell. "Just be sure to brush your teeth after wearing the mouthpiece to reduce mouth bacteria.”
Dr. Fussell offers some tips to help prevent tooth decay and still enjoy Halloween: Eat treats with meals. Saliva production increases during meals washing out food particles and helping to neutralize cavity causing plaque acid. Avoid hard candy. 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.
Drink fluoridated water. Optimally fluoridated water has been shown to reduce cavities from 20 to 40 percent. Follow the 1-2-3s of good daily oral hygiene: Floss once a day, brush twice a day and eat three balanced meals a day. Visit your dentist for regular checkups. (For additional information on Halloween treats, visit or
The N.C. Dental Society represents more than 3,600 dentists throughout North Carolina. The NCDS encourages improvement of the oral health of the public, promotes the art and science of dentistry, sustains high standards of professional competence and practice, and represents the interests of the members of the dental profession and the public which it serves.