June is National Candy Month—every orthodontist’s worst nightmare! Candy can wreak havoc on your oral health, whether or not you have braces. The high sugar content fuels bacteria growth in your mouth, producing the acids that dissolve tooth enamel, cause tooth decay, and create cavities if left unchecked. Add in the brackets, bands, and wires of an orthodontic treatment, and you can be in for a real mess!

Since cutting out sugar entirely isn’t a realistic option for most, we have helpful tips about how your child can get their sugar fix while keeping their braces and teeth healthy:

1) Avoid certain types of candy. Not all sweets are created equal—certain types of candy can be much more damaging to teeth with braces. Here are the top three types of candy that you should try to avoid during this National Candy Month:

  • Hard candy (i.e. Jolly Ranchers, Life Savers, Lemon Heads): If bitten or chewed, hard candy can easily bend the wires or break the brackets of braces. This can be very costly to repair and can get in the way of orthodontic treatment. Furthermore, small particles of hard candy often get stuck between the wires and bands, which can cause tooth decay and cavities.
  • Chewy candy (i.e. Milk Duds, Tootsie Rolls, Laffy Taffy): The sticky consistency of these candies often results in distorted wires or ripped off brackets. Additionally, these types of candies tend to stick to the teeth—particularly between wires and brackets, dissolving the tooth enamel over time.
  • Small candies (i.e. M&Ms, Skittles, Nerds): While these small candies may seem harmless, they are a leading cause of damage to braces. As a result of their size, these candies tend to get under the wire and pop off a bracket when you bite down, especially when consumed in handfuls. It’s better to steer clear of these candies altogether.

2) Brush and floss immediately after consuming sugar. Though it might be difficult to cut out sugar completely, you can take precautions to make sure that your sugar intake doesn’t harm your teeth. This is particularly important when you have braces, since particles of candy tend to stick and hide between your brackets and wires. However, by brushing and flossing immediately after consuming a sweet treat, you can minimize this damage on your oral health. It’s a great idea to keep a travel toothbrush and package of dental floss to use on the go!

3) Choose your candy wisely. As an alternative to the aforementioned candies, you should opt for a soft chocolate—preferably a dark chocolate that is low in sugar content—or a peanut butter cup that will pack in some protein alongside the sugar. A homemade baked goodie can also be a good alternative to candy. Since these desserts are soft, they are unlikely to cause damage to braces.

Like everything else in life, it’s important to consume candy in moderation. Alongside good oral hygiene habits, soft alternatives to candy are unlikely to cause damage to your child’s oral or orthodontic well-being. Keeping these tips in mind, you’re equipped to help your child make smarter choices when they indulge this National Candy Month.