Teethbusters: How Concession Snacks Damage Smiles

MADISON, Wis. (7/2/12) – For many, the movie theater experience isn’t complete without a trip to the concession stand. But those sugary, sticky, and butter-laden snacks are scarier than a blockbuster horror flick and play a big role in tooth damage, staining and cavities, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD).
Here’s a round-up of the best and worst theater snacks for your teeth from a panel of AACD dental experts including AACD President Dr. Ron Goodlin, DDS, from Toronto, Ontario, Dr. Colleen Olitsky, DDS, from Jacksonville, Fla., and Dr. Kellee N. Stanton, DDS, from St. Paul, Minn.
“Crunching down on an un-popped popcorn kernel is a common cause of painful dental fractures,” the panel points out. Each dentist noted that they have treated patients for broken teeth from popcorn. “Popcorn husks can also become lodged between the back teeth and gums, often requiring a course of antibiotics to clear up the resulting infection after removal.”
There’s no need to avoid movie candy and snacks altogether when heading to the movie theater say AACD experts, but look for better alternatives.
While candy is an obvious offender, some choices are better than others for teeth. The panel reviewed a variety of favorite movie sweets:
  • Sour Candies (Sour Patch Kids and War Heads) – These candies cause the most damage because they contain high amounts of citric, fumaric and malic acids, all which cause damage to tooth enamel.
  • Caramels (Milk Duds and Sugar Babies) – The caramel in these treats is super sticky enabling it to remain on teeth for a long period of time. Also, its stickiness can enable crowns or fillings to be pulled out.
  • Fruit and Nut-based Candies (Raisinets and Boston Baked Beans) – While these may seem like a healthy choice, they are also sticky, allowing sugar to stick on teeth.
  • Candy Coated Chocolates (M&Ms and Reese’s Pieces) – While not as sticky as other sweets, the colored candy shell stains teeth.

Acid-Packed Drinks

Soda is another concession culprit and carries a one-two punch, according to the AACD expert panel. First, there’s the high sugar content. Next, and even worse, is the high acidity level which wears down tooth enamel. Acid levels are ranked on the pH scale where the lower the number, the more acidic the substance is. Whereas battery acid ranks at 1.0 on the scale, soda ranks near or below a 3 compared to water which ranks at 7.0 (neutral). It’s not surprising that AACD experts recommend bottled water or club soda or even opting for a small soda to reduce the damage.

Snacks for Your Smile

There’s no need to avoid movie candy and snacks altogether when heading to the movie theater say AACD experts, but look for better alternatives.
  • Dark chocolate is the least processed and closest to the cocoa bean, which contain tannins, polyphenols, and flavonoids. Each of these offers a strong antioxidant that benefits the mouth and teeth.
  • Pixie Stix are a candy option the panel agreed on is because they are poured directly on the tongue, thus avoiding chewing altogether.
  • Cheese Nachos – From a purely oral health perspective, nachos are a reasonable choice because the sugar content isn’t high, they aren’t hard to chew and there’s not much acidity.
“The reality is that most people will continue to enjoy their favorite snacks at the theater,” says Dr. Ron Goodlin, AACD president. “Do yourself a favor and rinse your mouth with a glass of water after indulging in sweets to wash away excess sugar and acids; and don’t forget to bring your dental floss.”

About the AACD

The AACD is the world’s largest non-profit member organization dedicated to advancing excellence in comprehensive oral care that combines art and science to optimally improve dental health, esthetics, and function. Comprised of more than 6,300 cosmetic dental professionals in 70 countries worldwide, the AACD fulfills its mission by offering superior educational opportunities, promoting and supporting a respected Accreditation credential, serving as a user-friendly and inviting forum for the creative exchange of knowledge and ideas, and providing accurate and useful information to the public and the profession.

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