For 15 years now, Dollar$ Not Decay has been an annual event at Timberhill Dental. Each year, Dr. Black offers Corvallis kids the chance to sell their Halloween candy for $2 per pound! It’s a great deal for kids looking for a little extra pocket money and it helps keep their teeth, mouth, and gums healthy.
In today’s post, we’re going to take a closer look at why Halloween candy is so bad for kids’ teeth, dispel a few common myths, and help you make the best decision for your family’s dental health.
What Causes Cavities?
Research shows that over 90% of people will suffer from tooth decay at some point in their life. Cavities, of course, are a form of advanced tooth decay. But how do they form? And what causes tooth decay in the first place?
Did you know that there are around 20 billion (that’s right billion with a b) bacteria in your mouth? Oral bacteria are stuck to your teeth in the form of plaque. These bacteria are always looking to eat, grow, and reproduce. That’s all they do! In order to do this, they need to start by finding food in the form of sugars in your mouth.
The more sugars they find, the faster they can eat and reproduce. If you go without brushing for 24 hours, you’ll end up with 100 billion or more bacteria in your mouth. And of course, this cycle continues and as long as they have food, they’ll keep reproducing.
Take A Second To Picture This…
How quickly can the bacteria in your mouth multiply? The answer might surprise you. Start by imagining that someone offers you a single, itsy-bitsy, tiny grain of rice.
Then tomorrow they offer you 2 grains of rice. The day after that you get 4 grains of rice. Then 8 grains the next day and on and on for a full month.
Can you guess how much rice you’ll have on the 30th day?
About 40,000 lbs.– or the weight of nearly 8 elephants!
That’s how fast bacteria grow. It doesn’t seem like much at first, but before long the numbers become staggering.
OK, but how do bacteria cause cavities? When bacteria eat sugar, they produce acid as a by-product (much like how people breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide). Even though a microscopic bacteria produces a very very tiny amount of acid, billions of bacteria can produce enough acid to start eating away at the protective outer layer of your teeth– known as the enamel.
Your tooth’s enamel is the hardest substance in your body (it’s stronger than steel, even!) but it’s susceptible to damage from the acid produced by bacteria. Once the enamel of your tooth has been damaged, the bacteria can invade the inner layers of your teeth (known as the dentin and pulp). Damage to the inner layers of the teeth are what we traditionally call “cavities.”
Other Causes of Cavities
You might be asking yourself, “What about acidic foods like Coca-Cola? Can those do the same damage to tooth enamel?” The answer is yes they can! Additionally, some research indicates that genetics might also influence how likely you are to get cavities. Some people simply have softer enamel than others. So while bacteria are the main cavity-causing culprit, other factors play a role, too.
How to Prevent Cavities
Now that we know bacteria are responsible, how do we prevent cavities?
Limit the Bacteria’s Food Supply!
I LOVE Halloween and trick-or-treating with my four children is a family tradition. I also love giving kids an alternative to excessive candy consumption by hosting Dollar$, Not Decay on November 1st.
This is our 15th anniversary and we look forward to collecting as much candy as we can to help keep kids in Corvallis stay cavity free and healthy. We hope it’s a record-breaking year!
–Dr. kurt black, DDS
As we mentioned earlier, bacteria feast on sugars left behind by the foods we eat. By reducing the amount of sugar stuck to your teeth, there’s less available food for the bacteria to eat. Less food means less acid and healthier, stronger teeth.
Remove Sugar, Acid & Bacteria!
Of course, you can’t eliminate the sugars in your mouth as carbohydrates are present in most foods that we eat. So what do we do? We brush our teeth and go to the dentist for regular cleanings. Your twice-daily brushing and flossing habit helps to remove plaque and rinse and scrub sugars and acids off of the surface of your teeth. The longer sugars and acids sit on your teeth, the harder they are to remove– and the more damage they can do.
That’s part of why you should see the dentist every 6 months– to remove hardened plaque known as tartar or calculus!
Are Cavities & Decay In Baby Teeth a Big Deal?
This is a very common misconception that many people hold. They believe that since baby teeth are replaced by adult teeth, cavities in baby teeth aren’t a big deal. This just isn’t true.
Tooth decay and cavities, if left untreated, will progress and cause damage to the nerves and bone structure in your jaw. Just because cavities might start in temporary baby teeth doesn’t mean they can’t do permanent damage.
What’s So Scary About Halloween Candy?
Halloween candy isn’t necessarily worse than any other particularly sugary food that we eat. However, it’s the way we eat Halloween candy that can make it particularly bad for your oral health.
Oftentimes, kids eat Halloween candy at night, stay up late, and fall asleep without brushing, giving bacteria ample time to eat and produce enamel-causing damage before they’re cleaned away and removed.
Plus, kids receive LOTS of candy at Halloween. Many kids receive so much candy that they’re eating it for days or even weeks. Not only is this not healthy, it’s terrible for their teeth. All that extra sugar provides a steady stream of food for those acid-producing, cavity-causing bacteria.
Why Dollar$ Not Decay?
- It’s easier to stop bad habits early before they start. Kids can still have fun trick or treating but trade in the massive amounts of candy that they collect. It also benefits kids that are diabetic or can’t eat any candy. Halloween can be fun for everyone!
- Sugar contributes to other health issues. The more we learn about sugar, the scarier it sounds. More and more research is linking excessive sugar consumption with heart disease and other health problems.
- Dr. Black is trying to meet or beat his goal last year of collecting 1000 pounds of candy. For every pound he collects he will be donating a matching dollar to Jackson Street Youth Shelter.
So we hope to see you after Halloween this year! Make sure you bring us your candy for Dollar$ Not Decay!