Candy alone does not cause cavities

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --A bowl of Halloween candy is offered to Team Moody members during trick or treat here Oct. 31. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brittany Barker)

Candy and other sugary substances are only one of four factors that lead to cavities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brittany Barker)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- As Halloween draws near, children's brains are likely to be clogged with thoughts of ghostly ghouls, creepy costumes and titanic treat bags. The last thing on the minds of the little pirates and princesses is the potential risk for candy-coated cavities. And, while it is easy to blame sweets for children's toothache troubles, sugar is only one of the four factors required for cavities to form.

Cavities occur due to repeated attacks of acid on the tooth enamel. All teeth are susceptible to cavities, including teeth that have already had dental work. For cavities to form, four specific factors must be present concurrently: a susceptible tooth surface, cavity-forming bacteria, sugar and time. In other words, cavities are most likely to form within 20 minutes of eating or drinking a sugary substance. During this time, certain bacteria in a person's mouth will use the sugar to produce acid, which aggravates the tooth enamel.

Due to this time factor, it is better to consume sugary food and drinks quickly because it minimizes the amount of time a person's teeth are exposed sugar and acid. Furthermore, while foods like raisins, crackers and low fat chips do not necessarily contain a lot of sugar, they do tend to stick to teeth for longer periods of time, which prolongs the opportunity for acid production and cavity formation.

Therefore, it is important to ensure that good brushing and flossing habits are in place.

To keep that healthy smile and reduce the risk for cavities, teeth should be brushed at least twice daily for no less than two minutes. Flossing should be done at least once a day. Keep in mind that children who are less than eight years old may not have the dexterity to brush or floss effectively and may require some assistance. An annual dental exam, cleaning and oral hygiene education is also recommended for the prevention, diagnosis and follow-up of cavities.

For further information, contact the 99th Dental Squadron at 702-653-2600.

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