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This Halloween Don’t Play Tricks on Your Teeth

ADA Dentists provide Halloween tips about tooth decay, vampire fangs

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CHICAGO, Oct. 11, 2010—This Halloween and throughout the year, the American Dental Association (ADA) advises not to play decay-causing tricks on your teeth and offers advice on treats and vampire fangs.

Too many Halloween sweets

"Over time, if you don't properly clean your teeth, the results might be tooth decay, gum disease and possible tooth loss," states Dr. Ruchi Sahota, ADA consumer advisor and a practicing dentist from Fremont, Calif.
Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth and gums," she explains. "When these bacteria come in contact with sugar or starch in the mouth, 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."

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.

Besides how often you snack, the length of time food is in your mouth plays a role in tooth decay.

"Sticky candies like 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. Sahota.

Some research suggests that certain foods, such as cheese and peanuts may be 'friendly' to teeth.  So if you do snack, choose snacks that are healthy like fruit, nuts or cheese.  Chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals has been shown to reduce tooth decay, because increased saliva flow helps wash out food and neutralize the acid produced by dental plaque bacteria.

Vampire fangs

The popularity of television shows, movies and books featuring vampires has led some people to actually file their teeth to points, making them look like vampire fangs.

"We strongly caution people against altering their teeth because of a fad.   Filing teeth weakens tooth structure and, if the person later changes his mind, restoring teeth to their natural shape can be costly," explains Dr. Matthew Messina, a Cleveland-area dentist and ADA consumer advisor.

Dr. Messina advises that if you plan to purchase and wear commercially available vampire-looking mouthpieces, wearing them for an extended amount of time may irritate gums.  Food and other debris also may become trapped under the mouthpiece, 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. Messina.  "Just be sure to brush your teeth after wearing the mouthpiece to reduce mouth bacteria.

Tips to help prevent tooth decay

The ADA offers the following tips to help reduce tooth-decay risk 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.
  • 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.