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A bowl of candy illustrates the essential question — do they harm the teeth?

Painful Teeth and Sour Candy

A reader of our website recently asked if eating sour candies can cause pain in the teeth. The answer is very simple — yes! Tooth sensitivity is a common side effect from eating these popular confections. In a previous article, we discussed how sour candies damage the teeth. In this article, our Placerville dentists will help you to see why that damage causes pain.

Enamel Protects the Teeth

Inside every tooth is the pulp — tissues and nerves that supply the tooth with nutrients and monitor its health. The hard enamel that surrounds the tooth lets the tooth do its primary job of crushing food, while also protecting the sensitive pulp inside. That enamel breaks down when we chew hard things, expose it to temperature extremes (like from sucking on ice), or subject it to acid, like from sour candies.

When enamel is breached with cracks or holes, the tooth still has one more layer to protect it called dentin. Dentin is not as hard as enamel, and it’s much more porous, with tiny holes and tubes in its structure. So when your enamel is gone and you eat or drink hot or cold foods, or eat strongly acidic candies, those substances literally penetrate to the inside of the tooth — and that hurts the nerves inside!

While some candies are obviously acidic (if it says “sour”, it’s acidic) and contribute to tooth decay and sensitivity, other popular sweets are almost as bad. For example, Skittles and Starburst are both very acidic, with a pH of less than 3.0! That’s similar to the concentration of acids used in chemical laboratories, yet people regularly subject their teeth to significant damage, just to get that “sweet and sour” taste caused by acidic foods.

The solution is to avoid such candies in the first place. Since people tend to suck on them for and extended period and eat them throughout the day, they can do significant damage in a relatively short amount of time. If you must satisfy a craving for these “treats,” rinse your mouth with water immediately afterwards. Avoid brushing your teeth (which rubs the acid into the enamel) until after the residue is washed away. And request a visit at the Placerville Dental Group if you experience tooth sensitivity. Quick treatment can prevent sensitivity from worsening into serious decay.

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