Is there a way to enjoy my Halloween candy without completely sabotaging my dental health?

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Here’s a scary Halloween fact for grown-ups and kids alike: Eating candy can directly contribute to tooth decay and cavities. That’s because the bacteria that live inside your mouth use sugar to create acids that can severely damage your teeth.

So what should you do when you come home from trick-or-treating with a bag full of candy? Luckily, you don’t have to forgo sweets completely in order to keep your teeth healthy; you simply need to be careful about what you eat and pay extra attention to your dental hygiene.

To get started, check out these easy dental hygiene tricks to help you enjoy your Halloween treats safely.

1. Always brush your teeth at least twice a day. The more frequently you brush your teeth, the less time you give bacteria to damage them. As a general rule, brush your teeth at least twice a day to keep bacteria from building up inside your mouth, especially before bed. You should also remember to floss to remove any sticky candy.

2. Avoid sticky candies like taffy, gummy bears and jelly beans. Sticky candies can cause sugary residue to get stuck on and in between your teeth, making it harder for your saliva to wash away any plaque-causing bacteria.

3. Choose sweet over sour. Sour candy is more acidic than sweet candy, and acidic foods are harsh on your teeth. To protect your teeth from dental erosion, skip anything sour, and opt for sweets that are actually sweet.

4. Stay away from candy that stays in your mouth for a long time. Sucking on lollipops and other hard candies is a constant assault on your tooth enamel, causing long-term exposure to acids that wear enamel away. Instead, choose candy that you can chew and swallow immediately.

5. Share your candy with others. An easy way to lessen the negative impacts of Halloween candy on your teeth is to simply eat less candy. Share some of your treats with a parent or a friend to keep your mouth healthier and make a person you care about happier.

6. If in doubt, chocolate is a winner. When it comes to eating sweets, chocolate is better than candy, and dark chocolate is better than milk chocolate. That’s because dark chocolate generally contains less sugar compared with milk chocolate, and all types of chocolate are easier to rinse or brush off your teeth than candy.

7. Rinse your mouth as soon as you finish eating candy. When you can’t brush your teeth right away, rinsing with water or mouthwash is the next best option for reducing any leftover candy residue on your teeth, as well as the overall amount of acids in your mouth.

8. Eat your candy just after your meals, not as separate snacks. Nonstop snacking means nonstop opportunities for bacteria to create acid inside your mouth. If you are craving a snack, eat one directly after your meal, as opposed to with it.

9. Make sure your next dentist appointment is already on the calendar. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, tooth decay and cavities still happen. When they do, it’s important that you have regularly scheduled visits with your dentist so you can catch any issues early on, making problems easier to treat.

With the tips above, you can enjoy your candy while giving your teeth a greater chance to stay healthy and strong. Happy eating, and happy Halloween!