Why Sour Candy Hurts Your Teeth

Citric acid, the flavoring which produces the sour taste in these items, is the most erosive dietary acid.” — Prof. John Ruby, University of Alabama

Sour candies are more popular than ever before. A short list of the best-selling types of sour sweets includes:

  • Sweet Tarts
  • Sour Gummi Bears
  • X-treme Airheads
  • Big Stuff Pacifier Sucker
  • Sour Skittles

If you found your child sucking on any of the above items, or if you indulge in them yourself, should you have any concerns or take any precautions? When it comes to dental health, all of these sour candies are cause for alarm. The sour candy industry has gone wild, with each new additional product promising more pucker power than before. While these flavors turn some off with their initial blast of sour taste, they become quite addictive for those that enjoy them. What was once too strong a flavor for the general public is now a fast-growing segment of the giant candy industry, especially for teenagers.

Acid is the Problem

Is it just the sugar that is bad? While candy and sugary drinks are known contributors to cavities, sour candies provide another dreaded enemy of dental health – strong acids. Since these candies are loaded with acids, they severely erode tooth enamel. When eaten by children with immature tooth enamel, the damage is especially severe. Youngsters who regularly eat these popular treats, suckers, sour gels, powders and chews are visiting the dentist with significant destruction to their teeth.

A study by Dr. John Ruby, a pediatric dentist and associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry, came to the following conclusions:

Most of the fruity and sour candies had very low pH levels. Warheads Sour Spray had a pH of 1.6 and Altoids Citrus Sours tested at pH 1.9. As a reference, battery acid has a pH of 1.0. Citric acid, the flavoring which produces the sour taste in these items, is the most erosive dietary acid. Not only can citric acid damage the dental enamel, it can cause soft tissue irritation to the inner cheeks and tongue.

You may recall our earlier report on the damage done to teeth by the acids in popular soft drinks. Those containing citric acid regularly do more damage to enamel than sodas without this ingredient. Sour candies are providing one more way for our Placerville dental clients to end up with the problem popularly called “Mountain Dew Mouth” — or a mouth filled with rotten teeth.

How to Protect Your Teeth

So what can you do if you or your children have been sucked into the sour candy craze? It may sound counterintuitive, but do not brush right after consuming foods with citric acid. The teeth are most vulnerable at that point to further enamel destruction and in that moment your toothbrush does more harm than good, literally brushing away layers of enamel due to acid damage. The best and easiest remedy is swishing with plain water to wash away the acids and ward off erosion. Brush the teeth later, about twenty to thirty minutes after rinsing your teeth.

Better yet, a permanent and lasting solution to the sour candy problem is switching to mint or cinnamon-flavored candies, chews and gums. They provide the flavor punch you want with less enamel erosion. Bad habits and food addictions are not easy to give up, but remember, for the sake of your teeth, do not suck sour candy.

Apr 10, 2014 | Oral Health

1 Comment

  1. James Burrough

    I’ve spent over $10k fixing my teeth thanks to a Sour Patch and Bigfoots candy addiction. Not worth it!


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