It’s not a pretty picture

Sucking and chewing sour candies has become a popular and seemingly harmless treat, especially among children, teens and young adults.

In fact, the acid in sour candies weakens and wears away tooth enamel, which is essential to healthy teeth. In some cases, the damage can be very severe and lead to permanent tooth loss.

The hard facts about sour candies

  • In the past 20 years, candies mar keted to children have increasingly been of a “fruity” or “sour” variety.

  • Sour candies are very acidic, with a low pH level (see chart).

  • Some candy is so acidic it can actually burn gums and cheeks.

  • Acid weakens and wears away tooth enamel.

  • Teeth without protective enamel are prone to tooth decay.

  • Each acid attack lasts about 20 minutes.

  • Holding the acid in your mouth by prolonged candy sucking or chewing continues the acid attack.

The signs of tooth erosion

  • You may not notice tooth erosion in its early stages. However, sensitivity and discoloration are early warning signs that can lead to more severe stages with continued acid attacks.

  • Warning signs of tooth erosion include:

  • Sensitivity occurs when tooth enamel wears away. You may feel a twinge of pain when consuming hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks.

  • Discoloration is visible as a slight yellow appearance on the tooth surface.

  • Transparency of the front teeth appears along the biting edges.

  • Rounding of teeth occurs along the surfaces and edges of the teeth.

  • Cracks and roughness appear along the edges of the teeth.

  • Dents (known as cupping) develop on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. At this severe stage, fillings may actually appear to rise up.

  • Tooth decay is caused by loss of the protective outermost layer of enamel.

How to protect your teeth

  • The best protection against tooth erosion is preventing acid attacks on your teeth. Eliminating or decreasing consumption of sour candies is the fi rst line of defense against potential permanent damage of your teeth.

  • Reduce or eliminate consumption of sour candies.

  • Don’t suck or chew sour candies for long periods of time. Ongoing sucking prolongs acid attacks on your teeth.

  • If you do eat a sour candy, swish your mouth with water, drink milk, or eat cheese afterwards to neutral - ize the acids.

  • Chew sugar-free gum to produce saliva which protects tooth enamel.

  • After eating sour candy or other acidic food or drinks, wait one hour before brushing teeth. Brushing right away increases the harmful effects of acid on teeth.

  • Ask your dentist about ways to reduce sensitivity or minimize enamel loss if erosion has begun.

  • Use fluoride toothpaste and a soft toothbrush to protect your teeth.