Halloween Horror: California Dental Hygienists Issue Warning about the Dangers of Sour Candy

Oct. 27, 2008
Popular New Generation of Candy Almost Like Eating Battery Acid.

Director's Note: Following is a press release from the California Dental Hygienists' Association on the "horrors" of sour candy. Besides being an informative tool for consumers, this article further establishes the CDHA as a preventive authority. As each constituent reviews their public relations efforts for the coming year, what can we all do as individual states and professionals to further the profession of dental hygiene?

If you have had a successful public relations campaign, please let RDH eVillage know by e-mailing Kristine Hodsdon. We are all in this together and can benefit from sharing outcomes.

Looking for a really frightening costume to wear for Halloween this year? How about dressing up as a piece of sour acid candy, which attacks teeth like Freddy Kreuger goes after his victims.

While this new generation of candy is highly popular, most of it contains acid levels so high that it approaches the ph level of battery acid, according to the California Dental Hygienists' Association (CDHA), which issued a statewide warning to parents about the dangers of sour candy.

"This Halloween, we are advising adults to think twice about buying sour candies for trick-or-treaters," said Erika Feltham, a Registered Dental Hygienist and CDHA member who has studied this issue for more than a decade. "We also are encouraging parents to comb through their child's bag at the end of the night to remove sour acid candies and replace them with a small piece of non-sour sugarless candy or gum."

Sour candy comes in dozens of varieties and forms, including hard, soft, chewy, gummy, gels, liquid sprays, crystals, foam sprays, powders, cotton candy, and chewing gum. Most people think this type of candy is safer because it has less sugar, said Feltham, but they don't know that the acid content is at the extreme end of the acidic spectrum.

"It is not at all surprising that this candy is a contributing factor to acid erosion," she said. "With repeated exposure and frequency, sour candy can lead to a host of oral health problems, including increased cavities, tooth sensitivity, staining, soft-tissue sensitivities, and loss of shine."

CDHA offers the following tips for Halloween:

1. Avoid, limit, or seriously reconsider eating candy labeled "sour or tart"

2. Remember that "sour" means "acid," which is bad for teeth

3. Avoid the following acids found on the label of ingredients: citric, lactic, malic, tartaric, fumaric, adipic, or ascorbic

4. Don't be fooled by "concentrated fruit juice extracts," which is a code phrase for ingredients that can be highly acidic

5. If you choose to consume sour candies, rinse your mouth with water immediately afterwards to reduce the damaging effects from the acids.

6. DO NOT brush your teeth directly after eating sour candy as the toothbrush and toothpaste are abrasive. This will scratch and remove more of the already softened enamel.

"Most consumers and even many dental professionals are so focused on eliminating sugar that they haven't paid attention to the new and more serious candy ingredients containing multiple acids," said Feltham, who believes the problem is so bad that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) should require warnings on all sour acid candies.

"These acids are what make the sour candies tart and appealing," she said, "but also what makes teeth more susceptible to oral diseases."