Trick or treat for teeth

  • Published
  • By Capt. Steven Savage and Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Sugick
  • 8th Medical Operations Squadron
When you eat or drink sugary food and beverages, do you ever wonder how it can affect your teeth? Sodas, candy, and starchy carbohydrates can have a tremendous impact on healthy teeth.
When you drink sugary beverages and eat starchy foods, you're not only feeding yourself, but you are also feeding bacteria. A mild acid byproduct is a result of bacterial energy production, and acid attacks the hard outer layer of teeth called enamel.

Overtime, this mild acid can cause cavities and tooth decay.

The amount of tooth decay depends largely on how much sugar goes into the mouth, and more importantly, how long it stays in the mouth. A tooth's roots will naturally begin to dissolve when the pH of our saliva is less than 5.5 pH.

The following is a list of common Halloween candy and their pH levels:

Skittles 2.5 pH
Starbursts 2.4 pH
Lemon Heads 2.3 pH
Nerds 1.9 pH
Atomic Warheads 1.6 pH

To provide a comparison, battery acid has a pH of 1.0. It takes up to 15-20 minutes after eating these types of candy for the body to return the pH of our saliva to a more normal 6.5-7.0 pH.

To prepare you for and to keep your teeth healthy during Halloween and the upcoming holiday season, here are some suggestions: limit or minimize the number of times a day you eat or drink sugary food and beverages.

An example of this would be avoiding juice or soda and limiting the time spent snacking. When you sip sugary beverages, your teeth are continually exposed to sugar leading to eventual cavities.

Avoid soft, sticky sweets that are hard to remove. Examples include toffee, raisins, fruit snacks, caramel, lollipops, jelly beans and hard candies.

Sugary snacks can often be replaced by eating healthier options such as carrots, cheese, fruits and nuts. Finally, avoid energy drinks. These beverages are often loaded with sugar and tend to be extremely acidic.

There is going to be a lot of candy, sugary beverages and other unhealthy options to indulge in during the upcoming holiday season. Make good decisions. By following the advice of this article, and continuing to brush and floss on a daily basis, I can assure the amount of time you spend in the dental clinic will decrease and prevent future cavities.