The 5 Worst Candies for Your Teeth

When it comes to tooth decay, these sweets plead guilty.

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You already know that sugar can undermine nearly every part of your health (except your mood, right?), but some types of candy are worse than others, especially when it comes to those pearly whites. (Here are other ways that sugar affects the body.)

Here’s how dentists break it down: The longer a piece of sugary candy has to stay in your mouth, the higher the risk of tooth decay. Here’s are the worst candies for your teeth, according to the American Dental Association.

  • Sticky, tacky candies. This includes caramels, taffy, or chewy candies like Starburst or Airheads. Due to that sticky factor, these candies tend to get lodged on teeth and are tough to get off, even after brushing. That’s a long time for sugar to do its damage on the enamel.  

  • Gummy candies. Whether it’s in worm or bear form, these gummy candies have a similar risk: getting stuck in the teeth. (And don’t be fooled by fruit-shaped gummies. Those gummy peaches are still candy and contain zero fruit—but you knew that.)

  • Hard candies. While your classic butterscotch disks or root beer barrels aren’t as likely to get stuck in your teeth, you do have to suck on them for several minutes, which leads to increased tooth decay.

  • Sour candies. These usually double as a hard or gummy candy, doubling the damage of those Sour Patch Kids or old-fashioned lemon drops. The sour factor is very acidic, which can weaken the tooth enamel and make you more susceptible to cavities.

  • Caramel popcorn and popcorn balls. Have you ever bitten into one of these treats and not had to pick out little kernels for hours—if not days? All that time stuck between your two back molars puts you at increased risk for tooth decay. (But hey, at least you’re getting a serving of grains!)

So what’s left? Chocolate. (Yay!). Unlike those chewy, gummy candies, chocolate doesn’t get stuck on your teeth. For even more of a health boost, dark chocolate is best. A bar of 85 percent dark chocolate contains 5 grams of sugar per serving, compared to  19 grams in a milk chocolate bar.

Tempted to switch to sugar-free candies? Here’s what you should know about artificial sweeteners.

And this almost goes without saying, but brushing and flossing are your teeth’s two best friends whenever candy is involved.