While all Halloween candy worth devouring is packed with calories and refined sugar, some forms do less damage to the teeth than others. "Choose things that melt away and disappear in a short period," said pediatric dentist Lee Weinstein of Scottsdale, Ariz. "Live life a little. Eat a chocolate bar. Then brush your teeth."
For the record, the Academy of General Dentistry votes for sugar-free gum. It "actually helps prevent cavities because it can help neutralize the effects of sugary snacks," according to the academy. So, if sugar-free gum gets a 5 on a scale of 1 to 5, here's the lowdown on the competition:
Examples: Pixy Stix, Sweet Tarts
Trick: Yes, Pixy Stix are a sack of sugar. But if poured directly on the tongue, it won't touch teeth, leaving nothing for cavity-causing bacteria to feed on. Powdery candy also dissolves quickly, before bacteria can cause damage.
Why this scares dentists: There is no such thing as "best" candy for teeth.
Examples: Hershey's Kisses, M&M's
Trick: Chocolate, which won't stick to teeth for long periods of time, contains calcium, which could help protect tooth enamel. Research shows dark chocolate with at least 65 percent cocoa content is a potent antioxidant. Still, moderation and timing are important. "It's better to eat four chocolates at one time rather than having one chocolate every three to four hours," said Dr. Girish Herekar, a dental expert for justanswer.com.
Why this scares dentists: At room temperature, chocolate clings to tooth enamel. When it melts, it sinks into the crevices of teeth. Try freezing it to make it better for your teeth.
Candy With Fillings
Examples: Snickers, Almond Joy, Twix
Trick: Caramel, nougat and other fillings add sugar, which may erase chocolate's benefits.
Why this scares dentists: Candy with fruit or nuts is "sticky and can get caught in the pits and grooves of teeth, causing decay," said Dr. Julie Barna, a spokeswoman for the Academy of General Dentistry.
Examples: jelly beans, candy corn, Dots, Tootsie Roll, Skittles
Trick: It takes longer to eat, so you may eat less. But the higher the melting temperature something has, the worse it is for teeth.
Why this scares dentists: "If a 5-year-old ate an orange jelly bean and didn't brush, I could look three hours later and still see orange in the grooves of his teeth," Weinstein said. "Sticky, chewy candies linger there for hours and can create a higher acid content, which allows the bacteria to feast."
Hard Candies and Lollipops
Examples include Jolly Rancher, Jawbreakers
Trick: "The candies that take the longest to dissolve are the most harmful because they keep the sugar in your mouth for the longest time, Herekar said. "Have water close by and swish it around the mouth to lower the acid level and flush away excess sugar," said dentist Ron Schefdore of Celebrity Smiles.
Why this scares dentists: You're soaking your teeth in sugar for long periods of time, giving bacteria more time to attack.