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The Power Of Sour

The Power Of Sour

Sour Candy May Seem Harmless, But Has Devastating Effects On Your Teeth

These tasty treats have become extremely popular, especially among children, teens, and young adults. Sour candies have a very high acid level and, as we know, acid dissolves anything it comes in contact with. This means that when you are sucking or eating these candies, the acidic substance is coming in contact with the surfaces of all your teeth, thus causing them to be weakened and worn away. The damage can be severe and may even lead to tooth loss.
bowl of sour gummy worms

The Hard Facts About Sour Candy

  • In the past 20 years, candy marketed to children has increasingly been of the fruity or sour variety
  • Sour candies are very acidic (the lower the pH level, the more acidic it is)
  • Some candy is so acidic it can burn the gums and cheeks
  • Acid weakens and wears away tooth enamel, which is the outer protective layer of the tooth and something you cannot get back once it’s gone!
  • Teeth with weakened or missing enamel are more prone to tooth decay
  • Each acid attack lasts about 20 minutes (it takes your saliva 20 minutes to neutralize the pH level of your mouth back to a normal level anytime there is acid present in the mouth)
  • Holding the acid in your mouth by prolonged candy sucking or chewing continues the acid attack for an even longer time period.

How Does Tooth Erosion Happen?

Everyone’s teeth start out coated in a thin, white layer called enamel. It acts as a protective shell for our teeth against everyday wear and tear from chewing and biting down on food. However, many things can damage our enamel, such as grinding from stress, chewing or biting on objects like pen caps or ice cubes, and of course, from consuming too much acidic food and drink such as sour candies.

The most common result of acid erosion on our teeth is tooth decay. Once our enamel starts to wear away, it is not possible to get it back. Sensitivity begins to occur and you may feel sharp pains when you consume hot, cold or sweet foods and drinks. Your teeth will become discolored, taking on a slightly yellow appearance. Front teeth take worse damage as they are so much thinner than our molars, and they can even become transparent along the edges. Cracks and roughness appear on the edges of all teeth affected by acid erosion, and dents (also known as cupping) develop on the chewing surfaces of your teeth. If these teeth have any types of fillings, this type of damage can cause the appearance of your fillings rising up out of your teeth, and can eventually make them fall out of your tooth.

What Can I Do to Protect My Teeth?

Of course, the most effective solution is to reduce or completely eliminated sour candy for you and your children. However, if you must have some, make sure you limit not only how many sour candies you have, but how often you have them as well. You and your children shouldn’t suck or chew them for long periods of time, as the longer the candy is in your mouth, the more damage it does.

Once you have eaten a sour candy, immediately rinse your mouth with water, milk or even cheese. All of these will help neutralize the acids from the sour candy. Afterward, make sure you then brush your teeth, but not for 30 minutes. Brushing right away will actually increase the harmful effects of the acid. Make sure you use fluoride toothpaste and a soft toothbrush to best protect your teeth. Another way to protect your enamel is to chew sugar free gum. This produces more saliva to coat over your teeth.

Acid Levels Of Popular Sour Candies

The following table gives information on the acidity of popular sour candies:

Acid (pH) – Low = Bad
Water is neutral. It has a pH of 7.0, and battery acid has a pH of 1.0. Loss of tooth enamel starts at 4.0.

Spree® 3.0
Sweetarts® 3.0
Big Stuff Pacifier® Sucker 3.0
Sour Gummi Bears® 3.0
X-treme Airheads® 3.0
Sour Punch Straws® 2.5
Shockers® 2.5
Skittles® 2.5
Baby Bottle Pop® Powder 2.5
Brach’s Gummi Bears® 2.5
Sqwigglies Gummi Worms® 2.5
Wonka Laffy Taffy® 2.5
Starburst® 2.4
Sweet Tarts Shock® 2.4
Lemon Heads® 2.4
Mentos® Fruit Chew 2.4
WarHeads® Sour Rips Roll 2.3
Lollipop Paint Shop® 2.2
Zours® 2.2
Sour Skittles® 2.2
Airheads® Cherry Chew 2.0
Wonka Nerds® Grape 2.0
Now and Later® Cherry Chew 1.9
Too Tart Extra Sour Goo® 1.9
Wonka Pixy Stix® Powder 1.9
Altoids Mango Sours® 1.9
Wonka Fun Dip® Powder 1.8
WarHeads Sour Spray® 1.6
Battery acid 1.0
woman in dental chair with mirror

Don’t Let Sour Have All the Power

Regardless of what we eat, it is extremely important to take care of our bodies, and this includes our teeth and gums. Good oral hygiene is essential to good overall health. If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, feel you are experiencing erosion, or if you consume a lot of sour or sugary candy and drinks, be sure to consult with your dentist at your next appointment. We can help make sure your teeth stay strong and healthy, and together we will work to accomplish great oral health for you and your family.

Data courtesy of Dr. John Ruby, University of Alabama Birmingham School of Dentistry, 2007. Copyright, Minnesota Dental Association. All Rights Reserved.

Blog post by Lori Veerman
Information from the “Power of Sour” campaign by the Minnesota Dental Association to help raise awareness of the harmful effects of sour candy on teeth

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