Halloween candy isn’t as bad as you think – in moderation

Costumes have been chosen. Routes have been planned. Now all that's left to do is collect - and eat - tasty Halloween confections.

Trick-or-treaters will be on a mission to cram as much sugary, cavity-causing candy as possible into their Jack-o'-lanterns come Oct. 31. The adults in their lives, on the other hand, will spend part of their evening wondering just exactly how much dental damage Halloween candy does cause. Should we keep children from eating all of those tasty treasures they collect?

Nope.

"Let them eat all they want," says John Ruby, D.M.D., pediatric dentist and associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry. "Eating candy and sweets is more of a problem when you do it every day of the year.

"Indulging on special occasions - Halloween, Easter, Christmas and birthdays - is not going to ruin your teeth. Have fun and eat what you like."

Dental decay is a chronic disease, Ruby explains. It happens over a long period of time and is the result of constant exposure to sugary treats. Candies cause cavities or tooth decay if they're consumed frequently every day.

And, some are worse than others.

"Sour candies are a double hit," Ruby says. "Not only do you get tooth decay with the sugar but the acid is in high concentrations to make it sour; because of that your teeth also can erode due to the acid."

For optimal dental and overall health, Ruby recommends healthy snacks - such as celery and peanut butter, or cheese and crackers - on regular days. Most fruits, vegetables and dairy products do not cause cavities, and they also have other nutritional benefits. The dentist also says to avoid snacks sweetened with fructose, as it can cause tooth decay and other health problems.

"When consumed in great quantities, fructose can cause teeth to decay and also cause some metabolic problems leading to diabetes and obesity," Ruby explains.

Ruby says candy in moderation is not a bad thing. "If everyone just ate candy three or four days each year on special occasions, we wouldn't have a problem with cavities," he says.

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