Ghosts, goblins and sugar bugs? - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Ghosts, goblins and sugar bugs?

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Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2009 11:00 pm

The National Confectioners Association (NCA) estimates that Halloween candy sales will top $2.22 billion.

That is a lot of candy coming into homes before and after Halloween. The NCA also states that 41 percent of all adults sneak candy for themselves. So, when and how much candy is appropriate without causing harm to teeth? According to Forbes Magazine, parents should focus less on the candy and more on how frequent the candy is eaten.

Dr. Mark Helpin, acting chairman of Temple University’s Department of Pediatric Dentistry, says, “It’s not how much we eat but how often we eat these kinds of things that will place us at increased risk of dental decay and cavities.”

“Sugar bugs,” or the natural bacteria present in our mouths, produce acids that cause dental decay. These bacteria love an acidic environment. When eating a meal, the oral acidity increases. Liquids that accompany the meal and saliva help to wash away the debris and acid. The acid is neutralized by the saliva. With frequent snacking, the acid level in the mouth remains high, promoting the presence of bacteria. Therefore, more frequent candy eating promotes dental decay.

Helpin suggests eating candy at meal time, and prevent snacking. This will help create a neutral oral environment throughout the day and help prevent dental decay. The worse time to eat candy and sweets is at bedtime. The salivary flow slows down while sleeping, making it difficult to neutralize the mouth. Also, brushing the teeth after eating candy is ideal. If brushing is not an option, then rinsing with water or drinking water will help neutralize the oral cavity.

Therefore, as candy accumulates in the home, parents and children should try to sustain from snacking. Eating the candy as dessert after meals followed by a glass of water is ideal. The concern is not the quantity, but the frequency.


Dr. Rashmi (Rush) Bhatnagar, DMD, MPH, can be contacted at (480) 598-5900 or visit

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