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Acids in 'New Generation Candy' can harm teeth

The candy most kids eat today is not the kind of candy their parents ate as kids. While kids today like to go trick-or-treating as much as their parents did, the effects of eating all that candy have grown worse.

Leaving aside the risks of obesity and diabetes, the more immediate health concern caused by eating candy is the amount of sour acid ingredients in many candies today.

In a recent press release, the California Dental Hygienists’ Association (CDHA), stated that “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,” in a statewide warning to parents about the dangers of sour candy. The popular sour candies combine sweet and sour ingredients that together can destroy the enamel on children’s as well as adults’ teeth.

Local dental hygienist Erika Feltham has been spreading the word about the irreversible damage being done by this acidic candy to her patients’ teeth for more than 10 years.

“Slowly but surely, recognition, concern and education is growing about the destructive effects from this ‘New Generation Candy,’” she said.

The kind of candy Feltham is referring to usually has a very sour acid coating around a pure sugar center. It comes in a variety of forms including hard and soft, gels, pastes and powders.

The high acid content of these candies can destroy the enamel of teeth, which are then directly exposed to the sugar. If someone then washes the candy down with sodas, sports drinks or energy/power drinks, that person’s teeth are getting hit with another blast of acid and sugar.

“I have noted a dramatic increase in the number of cavities and loss of luster [shine] of the teeth, erosion and tooth sensitivity for children and both young and mature adults who consume this ‘sour acid sugar candy’ regularly,” Feltham said. “It does not take a lot of this kind of candy to be potentially destructive.”

The amount of damage done to the teeth depends on the quantity and frequency of eating this candy as well as the ingredients of the candy consumed.

Adults are also being affected by the use of sour acid ingredients in not only candy but especially in popular breath mints. These sour acid mints also appear to be causing a remarkable increase in sensitivity and decay in her adult patients’ teeth and should be avoided, according to Feltham.

To reduce this destructive effect, Feltham recommends children, and adults, rinse out their mouths with water right after eating this candy. However, she recommends that parents carefully monitor the candy their children are consuming, especially around Halloween.

“It is my opinion and belief that this newer and more concentrated type of ‘sour acid sugar candy’ makes chocolate and other old-fashioned candy look ‘safe’ in comparison,” Feltham stated. “I warn my patients to carefully check candy labels for these types of acids. I have yet to find candy companies list on labels the pH level of their candies.”

Common names of various acids found in ‘sour acid sugar candy’ include: citric, malic, tartaric, fumaric, ascorbic, adipic and lactic acid. So, parents should check their children’s ‘trick or treat’ bags for this destructive candy and replace it with non-sour sugarless candy or gum.

Erika Feltham has been a dental hygienist in north San Diego County for more than 24 years.

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