Kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy Halloween goodies. Plenty of adults like to eat candy and treats too. Everyone has heard warnings about Halloween treats that can cause cavities, but they can also wreak havoc with dental restorations and orthodontics. That goes for kids’ fillings or sealants as well as grownups’ bridgework or Invisalign.
The materials used by the dentist for things like fillings and crowns are tough, but they’re not indestructible. Some snacks should be avoided with certain types of dental work. Eating and drinking the wrong things can land a patient back in the dentist’s chair for a do-over of an expensive and painful dental procedure.
This Halloween, choose wisely between the enjoyment of a few dollars’ worth of candy compared to the cost of ruining hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars in dental procedures. Luckily there are things everyone can do to protect their dental work.
Dental fillings are used to fill the holes caused by tooth decay, better known as cavities or caries. Patients with fillings can usually eat and drink anything they want without any problems. Sometimes, though, fillings can come loose if they are old or if the procedure hasn’t been done correctly.
Chewy Halloween candy like taffy or hard caramels can pull out loose fillings. Biting down on a hard candy like a jawbreaker or a popcorn kernel can knock one out too.
If a filling cracks, falls out, or feels loose, the patient should make an appointment with the dentist. The cavity needs to be refilled as soon as possible to avoid additional bacteria getting into the hole and spreading the decay.
Many children get dental sealants on the chewing surfaces of their back teeth to help prevent tooth decay. Sealants are a thin, clear liquid that hardens into a solid shell protecting the teeth. There is only so much protection they can offer, though.
Sealants can crack or chip under too much chewing pressure. Hard toffee, peanut brittle, or jawbreaker candy can make them crack. Just like fillings, they can be pulled loose by sticky foods.
Cracked or loose dental sealants defeat the purpose. Once they break away from the teeth, bacteria and tooth decay can get to the enamel and cause cavities. A dentist can remove the old broken sealant and re-apply the protective material to restore the barrier.
The larger the tooth restoration, the bigger the target for cracking or chipping. Dental crowns are caps that fit over an entire tooth. Crowns are made from a variety of materials. Some materials, such as porcelain, are more easily broken than others.
Again, hard Halloween treats are the worst culprit when it comes to breaking or chipping a crown. Hard candies, popcorn kernels, peanut brittle, and toffee can all cause a fracture if bitten down on with too much force. If a crown has been in place for a long time, sticky candies can dislodge it completely.
Placing a crown on a tooth is a two-part procedure. During the first phase, a temporary crown is usually attached while the permanent one is created in a lab to look and feel just like the original tooth. Special care needs to be taken while the temporary crown is in place. It is best to avoid any hard or chewy foods during the week or so until the final appointment.
The situation that required a crown in the first place is either a very bad cavity, a chipped or cracked tooth, or the need to cover a tooth that has had a root canal procedure. These reasons are serious. They come with a great deal of pain, and the chance of the tooth becoming infected is high. It is important to see a dentist immediately to have a damaged crown reattached.
Implants and Bridges
Two popular options to replace missing teeth are dental implants and bridges. Implants are artificial teeth that are held in place with a post that goes right into the jaw bone. Bridges are also false teeth, but they are attached to adjacent teeth. Those healthy teeth are sometimes fitted with crowns giving the manmade tooth in between a place to hook on.
Care needs to be taken when indulging in sticky, gooey, or hard candy. Just like with other dental work, it’s easy for these restorations to break or come loose. In the case of a bridge, the false tooth could break, or the neighboring crowns could come loose, causing a lot of pain.
A dentist should be consulted right away if an implant feels loose, or if it breaks off. Likewise, a bridge should be repaired as soon as possible.
Gum, caramels, candy with nuts, and hard candies can destroy braces. Caramel apples may be the worst. They combine the sticky caramel that will stick to braces with a hard apple that can damage wires and brackets. Whether they are traditional metal, clear, or lingual braces doesn’t matter. These Halloween treats should be avoided.
Eating the wrong things with braces can bend or break the wires. In some cases, certain foods can pull the brackets off teeth completely. These circumstances are harmful for a few different reasons. First, having sharp, broken wires poking into the lips and cheek can be very painful. Second, it can set back the progress of the orthodontic treatment. (All of these are reasons that some people prefer Invisalign to braces. Read on to find out about that straightening method in the next section.)
If any part of the braces feels broken, loose, bent, an appointment should be made immediately with the orthodontist. They can replace the damaged parts and readjust the treatment protocol if it has gotten off track.
One feature of straightening trays like Invisalign that appeals to patients is the ability to take them out. They can be removed to eat, and unlike braces, there are no limits to the type of food. A person with Invisalign should never eat anything that requires chewing or biting while the trays are in.
Some people, however, think it’s safe to eat certain things while the trays are covering their teeth. Yogurt, soup, and ice cream don’t need to be chewed, so they are often considered okay. At Halloween time, eating soft chocolate or sucking on a hard candy might not seem that much worse. The problem is that any kind of food, even if it doesn’t need to be chewed, will leave residue and bacteria in the mouth. If it gets between the teeth and trays and stays there, cavities can form.
After any food or drink, Invisalign trays should be removed and rinsed. Ideally, the teeth should be brushed before putting them back in.
Beverages are a concern with Invisalign too. Sugary apple cider can cause cavities if it’s not cleaned off the teeth. Hot beverages like hot chocolate can actually melt the plastic. And red wine or cocktails at a Halloween party can stain the trays.
Damaged Invisalign trays can undo some of the progress made in straightening teeth. Consult the dentist. Moving on to the next set of trays or getting a replacement might be recommended.
What Halloween Treats are Okay for Dental Work
It’s not necessary to skip all the Halloween candy and goodies. You can indulge and keep your dental work intact. The best options are things that are soft and will melt off the teeth quickly. Instead of caramel, nuts, and toffee, opt for pure chocolate bars, peanut butter cups, or mint patties. Wafer candies like KitKats, Nestle crunch bars, and 3 Musketeers aren’t bad either.
Don’t ruin your fun this Halloween by ending up with a dentist visit. But if you do need a dentist—for damage or just a checkup—use our online search tool to find one near you.