Sometimes there seems no end to the choices of sweet treats available to tantalize your taste buds, with new versions and flavors being introduced all the time. One of the more recent fads when it comes to sweets is sour candies. It might sound odd, but some kids — and adults — love the sensation of turning their cheeks inside out with incredibly sour flavors. And when you think about it, there are plenty of sour fruits out there, and fruits are healthy, so sour candies can’t be bad, or are they?
What Sours the Candy
It’s true that the main ingredient for the sour sensation is found in many fruits, specifically citrus fruits. It’s called citric acid. Granted, it’s not the only source, natural or otherwise, but citric acid brings on most of the sour flavor. Food scientists augment the flavor of citric acid by fermenting sugar with microorganisms to get a very bittersweet compound, and malic acid balances the mixture out with its own tartness. But this kind of mixture has a challenge: the sour sensation doesn’t last long, typically a few seconds. So, food scientists add fumaric acid to make the flavor last longer. Along with all this, other chemicals — naturally derived or not — are added to affect the mixture even further. The specific ingredients vary based on the manufacturer and the candy, but the end result is a very acidic sweet that creates an extremely low pH in your mouth.
Dental Cause and Effect with Acid
Citric acid, malic acid, fumaric acid, and several other ingredients provide the pucker power of these candies. But what does all that acid do when it’s in your mouth? One thing it does is weaken the protective coating of enamel on the outside of your teeth. If the acid has enough of a chance to take effect, it wears away your enamel faster than most sodas, eventually exposing the softer inner layers of your teeth. This exposure is commonly referred to as cavities.
When you have a cavity and you eat or drink hot, cold or spicy foods, the temperature or spices contact the nerves inside your tooth, resulting in sharp, often intense pain. It may even happen with sour candies! At that point, it’s important to visit the Yuba City Dentistry Group so we can apply fillings to your teeth, saving you from pain and a possible root canal procedure!
Of course, the better option is to avoid getting cavities altogether. Staying away from highly acidic candies and foods is a great step in the right direction. Rinse with water after you drink them, at a bare minimum. (Brushing your teeth immediately after eating or drinking acidic foods can actually lead to more enamel damage.) If you really need something sweet, try seasonal fruits. Also, talk the issue over with your dentist at your next semiannual visit. Many of us here at the Yuba City Dentistry Group enjoy sweet treats, and we might know of just the thing to give you that sour kick without the danger to your teeth!