Go ahead, admit it, your kids are in bed resting peacefully, and you pull out their hard-earned Halloween candy and pick out your favorite treats. No judgment here, kids aren't the only ones who enjoy Halloween goodies. Most of us adults enjoy these special treats too. We have all been raised with warnings about the cavity-causing monster that is the Halloween treat. Sadly, we are not here to completely debunk this; in fact, we feel that it's only fair to present the often unspoken dangers of Halloween treats. It isn't just the sugar in sweets that we need to be wary of, the sticky, gooey nature of many delicious treats can also wreak havoc on dental restorations, bridges, and orthodontics. Kids aren't immune here either, those protective little sealants that shield young teeth can be attracted like magnets to the gooey goodness of the treat. Dental materials are solid, and new technology and materials are making them even stronger, but they are certainly not indestructible. San Francisco Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Edward L. Loev, D.M.D. cringes at the mere mention of sticky treats like taffy, jolly ranchers, and Now and Later's. That said, it is sometimes just wise to avoid the treats that are the worst offenders and make sure to always brush, floss, and if nothing else rinse with water after eating. A few second delight isn't worth expensive, uncomfortable do-overs or dental work. Now that we have bummed you completely, we have some tips on how to protect your dental work.
Fillings and Bonding
A hardened resin material is usually used to fill the holes caused by tooth decay, and repair small chips and/or cracks in teeth. Patients with fillings can usually eat and drink anything they want without any problems; however, bonding that is attached to the biting edges of teeth are not as strong as natural teeth and are susceptible to getting pulled off or cracked. Chewy Halloween candy like taffy or hard-soft candies can pull out loose or damaged fillings. Biting down on a hard candy like a jawbreaker or a popcorn kernel can knock out a filling or bonded surface.
If you suddenly see a chunk of white on your tongue, feel a crack, or if a filling or bonding feels loose, please call your dentist right away to have it repaired so that the tooth is doesn't suffer from additional damage or decay.
Many children and more recently, some adults get dental sealants on the chewing surfaces of their back teeth to help prevent tooth decay. Sealants are a thin, clear material that hardens into a solid shell and protects the most easily decayed surface on the tooth. Sealants are durable but not candy-proof. Sealants can crack or chip under too much chewing pressure. Hard toffee, brittles, or jawbreaker candy can make them crack easily. Just like fillings and bonding, they can be pulled loose by sticky, gooey treats. Cracked or loose dental sealants defeat the purpose of the restoration and can actually act to protect the offending bacteria that causes decay. Old broken sealants can be removed by your dentist, and new protective material can be reapplied to restore the barrier.
The larger the area of the tooth restoration, the bigger the target it is for cracking or chipping. Dental crowns are covers or caps that fit over an entire damaged or decayed tooth. Crowns can be fabricated from a variety of materials. One of the most common materials for crowns is porcelain, which, while aesthetically pleasing, is often more prone to breaking than metal surfaces.
Not surprisingly, hard Halloween treats are the worst culprit when it comes to breaking or chipping a crown. Hard and sticky candies, popcorn kernels, nut brittles, 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 and the margins (area that connects to the natural tooth) are less than pristine, sticky candies can actually pull off the crown completely. For those of us that have had a crown done, we know that it is generally a two-part procedure. During the first phase, a temporary crown is usually placed for the period of time it takes for a skilled lab to fabricate a natural, beautiful permanent prosthetic tooth that is designed to look and feel just like or in some cases better than the original tooth. During this week to two-week period, extra care should be given to the temporary crown, which is made of plastic and very susceptible to cracking and being pulled out. It is suggested that patients not yank or tear food during this period and avoid any hard or chewy foods until the final crown placement appointment. Crowns are generally placed on teeth that are cracked and damaged beyond the scope of a simple filling and/or have had a root canal treatment rendering them very brittle. It is essential to see a dentist immediately if your crown is damaged or has fallen out.
Implants and Bridges
Our mouths are so lucky to be living during these modern times. There are many ways to restore missing teeth, the two most popular options to replace missing teeth are dental implants and dental bridges. Dental implants are artificial "roots" that are implanted directly into the jaw bone, over a period of time the bone will grow around artificial support screw and become an integrated part of the mouth. They are very strong and topped with a crown (false tooth) that screws directly into the new support. Bridges have been around for a long time but are also a very good prosthetic, rather than being attached to one's jaw, they are connected to adjacent teeth. The downsides of bridges are that healthy teeth are often fitted with crowns as supports for the missing teeth and that food and bacteria can easily get stuck between the prosthetic/bridge tooth and gum tissue. Again, the larger the surface, the more significant potential for chipping cracking and pulling. Rarely is an implant loosened from the bone, but with enough pressure or pull, this can happen. Implant replacement is much more complicated than initial placement, and the cost alone should be a deterrent as implants, while second only to natural teeth are a definite financial investment. Both the implant and bridge crown are generally made at least in part of porcelain for a natural look, so just like with individual crowns, they can crack or come loose when faced with sticky, hard, and gooey treats. In the case of a bridge, not just the false tooth could break, out, all teeth incorporated can come loose or break off, causing a lot of discomfort. Your dentist should be consulted right away if an implant or bridge feels loose, or if it breaks off.
My goodness, has technology changed dentistry. Invisalign and the few other "almost invisible" orthodontic products have changed how we move and straighten teeth. One of the most popular features of straightening trays is that they are removable. They are removed when patients eat and drink, and unlike braces, there are no limits to the type of food one can consume. We suggest not eating at all with aligners in, but some people feel it's safe to eat things while the trays are covering their teeth. Ha, says Dr. Loev, "I have seen patient's have great success eating and drinking with aligners in, and I have seen people come in with bright pink wine-stained aligners and mangled plastic ones resembling that homework that fido ate." At Halloween time, eating soft chocolate or sucking on a hard candy might not seem that bad. The problem is that any food, even if it doesn't need to be chewed, can leave residue and nasty bacteria in the mouth. If it gets between the teeth and trays and stays there, cavities can form. After any food or drink, aligners should be removed and rinsed. Ideally, the teeth should be brushed thoroughly before putting them back in.
Beverages are a concern with Invisalign too. Ciders and colas can cause cavities if not cleaned off the teeth. Hot beverages can melt the plastic. As Dr. Loev mentioned, pink aligners are not a good look, red wine, or cocktails at a Halloween party can be the culprit and stain the trays.
Damaged Invisalign trays are not serving their purpose and in some cases, can undo some of the orthodontic progress made. Consult your dentist if you notice that your aligners look strange. Moving on to the next set of trays might be the best option, or depending on how long you have been on the stage, ordering a replacement might be recommended.
So, What Halloween Treats can I Enjoy?
Enjoy the holiday with your kids. Indulge your sweet tooth but keep your dental work intact and avoid a Boo-thache by choosing options that are soft or quickly melted and will not stick to teeth. Opt for pure chocolate bars, peanut butter cups, or M&M's (Dr. Loev's Favorite) rather than sticky, gooey or hard candy. Have a safe, wonderful Halloween!
Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Edward L. Loev, DMD has been practicing dentistry in his Downtown San Francisco dental office for four decades. He has surrounded himself with a fantastic team of individuals who are committed to patient care and service. Call them today at 415-392-2072 or make an appointment online to set-up a complimentary cosmetic consultation or even just a new patient visit if you are in need/want of a new dentist.