Diet & Nutrition

The 3 Best and Worst Candies for Your Teeth

Not all sugar is created equally and some candies are less damaging to your teeth than others. Ever wondered what the worst and best candies are for your teeth?

by Dr. Burhenne

The 3 Best and Worst Candies for Your Teeth

I get asked this one a lot. I have to admit, as someone with a sweet tooth, I’ve asked this question myself. I couldn’t write this article without first prefacing that, of course, having no candy at all is the “best” candy (except for dark chocolate).

Just because a candy falls under the “best” category here doesn’t mean I’m condoning it — nor do I want to say that any candy in the “worst” category is something you should avoid completely.

But not all sugar is created equally and some candies are less damaging to your teeth than others. The next time you indulge, make sure you know the steps you can take to minimize the damage to your teeth after eating something sweet.

With that disclaimer out of the way, here’s how the best and worst candies stack up…

The Best Candies

1. Dark chocolate is the best candy for your teeth by a wide margin. Chocolate may be more effective than fluoride at fighting tooth decay, according to several studies, due to a compound in chocolate that helps harden tooth enamel. Compounds in cocoa beans also have an antibacterial effect that fights plaque. That’s why my patients get a dark chocolate square along with floss and a toothbrush in their goodie bag when they leave the office after appointments.

2. Sugarless gum and sugarless candies, such as candies with stevia or candies that diabetics consume. Sugar feeds bacteria and upsets the healthy ratios of pH and bacteria in the mouth, so a sugarless candy comes in as “second best” here. I’m still not a fan because whenever you see the sugarless label, the candy tends to have other bad chemicals in it that are detrimental to health in another way.

3. Candy bars with nuts. Candy bars with a lot of nuts can break up the stickiness, and it’s the stickiness of a candy that increases chance of cavity, so having nuts (and the protein/fiber that nuts provide) can break up the “badness” of the sticky parts of the candy. Nuts can also break up some of the biofilm of the teeth. My favorite “candy bar” which I’ve found to be tastier than my old favorite Payday and extremely low in sugar — around 5 to 6 grams depending on the flavor — are the KIND bars. My favorite flavor is Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt.

KIND bar good for teeth

The Worst Candies

1. Anything Sticky. The stickier the candy, the worse it is — that’s Jujubes, Tootsie Rolls, etc. The effects of these sticky candies will linger because they stick around, increasing the chance for a cavity. The same goes for dried fruit, which is just as bad for your teeth because of the stickiness and concentration of sugar. Stick to real fruit, which is far less concentrated in sugar and is packed with fiber and water that keep you full.

2. Lollipops. That’s because when it comes to how bad a candy is for your teeth, frequency of exposure is more harmful than quantity. If you eat the candy quickly and brush your teeth and it’s over very quickly — as far as your teeth go (not talking about blood glucose systems and the effect on the rest of the body) it’s much better than sucking on a candy all day long, like in the case of a lollipop. Frequency of exposure increases chance of harm to teeth – but if you throw it down the hatch and brush and floss right after, damage to (teeth only) can be minimal.

3. Gummy worms, because they’re the most acidic. Acid is bad for your teeth because it wears down the tooth enamel, which protects your teeth. This makes it easier for teeth to become chipped or broken. Enamel also insulates the tooth. A lack of enamel can expose the nerves in your teeth, which are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature of the things you eat and drink.

What helps me beat the holiday season of sweet treats is baking my own. Check out xylitol as a sugar replacement — I’ll be posting more baked goods recipes that use xylitol as we head into the holiday season.

Mark Burhenne DDS

I want to hear from you! Leave me a comment below and let me know what you thought of this post or leave me a question! I read each and every one.

read next: What to Eat—And What to Avoid—to Heal Cavities Naturally

Tired of cavities?

In 3 super easy steps, I'll show you how to hardly ever get another cavity without drastically changing your diet.

Dr. Mark Burhenne DDS

12 Comments

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  1. Love this article. I am extremely fond of candy and with my A.D.D. I’m constantly eatting chocolate to keep myself busy!! So I really enjoyed this and after reading it made all the sense in the world. Thank you very much, I really enjoy your informative articles!!

  2. I love both Hershey’s dark chocolate Nuggets w/almonds and Blue Diamond oven-roasted dark chocolate almonds. The Blue Diamond almonds have a sugar+cocoa powder coating, not like traditional chocolate-dipped almonds. How do I understand the dental pros & cons of each?

    • William, for both the Hershey’s and Blue Diamond, the sugar content is too high and the chocolate concentration is too low. It’s hard to trust big brand products. Nothing wrong with cacao powder, but it needs to be 70-80% chocolate, and under 6g per serving of sugar. Hope that helps!

  3. I have never received a piece of chocolate with my new toothbrush and floss from the dentist! Now I feel gypped. In all seriousness, I really appreciate your explanations of what different kinds of candy do to your teeth. I’m going to go read the article about dark chocolate; I think I could cut out all other candies in order to take better care of my teeth.

  4. I have many complex conditions not least of which is diabetes. Some of the drugs I take result in an incredibly dry mouth and so I am obliged to suck a sweetie or two. Because of the effect or affect of sorbitol and the like on the bowel sweeties have to be limited and this I do. Chocolate is a poor substitute for a boiled sweet designed to water the mouth. If my mouth can water for a sweetie why does it not water the rest of the time? Looking forward to your response. Eileen Barron.

  5. I researched xylitol, which is an alcohol sugar. It is hydrogenated and derived from its natural source of xylan. The body can not fully digest it and it causes big problems in the digestive tract along with damage to the liver. Having researched the exact step by step process on how it is made and the fact that most of the store product is derived from GMO corn, it makes me steer far and clear. As far as safety, the tests are very short term and the biological research testing field, very narrow. To me it looks like another hydrogenated bomb labeled as natural to get around government regulation. Make billions, fined millions later, that is how many companies operate. As for me, I’ll not jump on the bandwagon just yet.

  6. Hi my name is Richard Kyle Rose and I just got my dentures I was wondering how does it take to get back to eating again? Also I love gummie worms and gummie bears can i still eat like I used to before getting my dentures?

    Kyle

  7. Xylitol is also very toxic to some animals. Especially dogs. They can die or become very ill after only eating a small amount. Please be aware of that. Thanks for the article.

  8. Last week most of a tooth broke off from biting into a Kind bar. I went to a cosmetic dentist, and when I told him I lost the tooth after biting into a protein bar, he asked “Was it a KIND bar?” I was amazed that he knew. He told me that a number of his patients have broken a tooth off from biting into Kind bars. So I am astonished that you would recommend KIND bars.

  9. Thank you for this post. My son attended his 1st cub scout camp today and was rewarded with taffy candy… to my horror. I never give him taffy, try not to give him hard candy and not gum. My theory is that they are sticky and are in your mouth long which is never a good combination. I think you support my theory. I’m going to encourage them to reward with healthier snacks. Or at Least a better choice than tootsie rolls/taffy.

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