The Sweet Tooth Awakens

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will almost certainly be the highest-grossing premiere in history, but it may also turn out to break records for cavity-causing collateral damage. Movie theaters are turning their venues into Maz Kanata’s pirate hideouts, offering snacks and drinks heavily spiked with sugar and other tooth-hostile ingredients.

The huge emphasis on selling snacks is understandable. Theaters have to hand over a percentage of their ticket sales to the studio that created whatever film they are showing. For Star Wars, Disney is demanding a much bigger cut of box-office revenue than usual – “well north of 60 percent” of each ticket, B. Riley & Co. media analyst Eric Wold told the Washington Post, compared to the average of about 53 percent.

But theaters can keep much of the concessions cash that they collect so many will be offering high-priced themed snacks and drinks. While you can find the occasional offering of Aunt Beru’s processed veggies, high protein Nerf and blue milk many of the tasty treats have the potential to turn moviegoers into space slugs with a mouth full of Rancor-style teeth faster than you can travel through hyperspace.

Ok, yes, we’re exaggerating a bit. But Star Wars snacks do tend to be decidedly on the sugary side.

There are the cinnamon-and-sugar Princess Leia Buns, Leia Oreo Bun Cupcakes,  multifruit soft drinks (each with its own “surprise egg”), Wookiee cookies, Darth Vader cakes, Chewbacca coffee creamer, Jelly Belly galaxy jelly beans … apparently even water needs to be spiked with sugar.

Sugar itself doesn’t rot your teeth – it’s used as fuel by the acid-producing bacteria that live in our mouths. These bacteria love carbohydrates.

Carb-fueled bacteria multiply super-fast, creating an acidic environment in your mouth that weakens teeth and fosters the growth of bacterial plaque. Over time, without proper oral hygiene and dental care, the plaque clinging to teeth works its way under the gums, resulting in oral infections and tooth decay.  Bacterial plaque is the primary cause of 90% of all dental disease.

And don’t even get us started on popcorn. The buttered variety can produce lactic acid in your mouth which can soften enamel, and it’s also almost impossible to eat popcorn without getting a few husks stuck between your teeth. If you don’t floss the popcorn debris out, it can lead to gum infections and even a dental abscess.

Cineplex, Canada’s largest theater chain, expects that they’ll sell 5 million cups of popcorn and 9 million ounces of soda at the premiere alone. Regal Cinemas, America’s largest theater chain, are hosting long marathons of the full saga at dozens of theaters, where movie-goers can indulge in huge cups of deeply-discounted soda.

The tooth attack is happening outside of theaters too. Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn, New York has partnered with Disney to create two new “Star Wars” ice cream flavors. The Light Side is a white marshmallow ice cream base with light and dark rice crispy clusters and The Dark Side is a dark chocolate ice cream with espresso fudge brownies and white chocolate pearls.

Running your own Star Wars marathon at home? You have no lack of snack recipes to choose from, and all appear to have more sugar than Acklay has teeth.

 

We’re not going to tell you not to eat these festive things. We’re not bringing bags of carrots and apples to the theater tonight either. But even in a galaxy far, far away, dental hygiene and dental care is important. Here are some tips that will help your teeth to fight the dark side.

You can battle your mouth’s destructive bacteria by choosing your treats carefully. Any carbohydrate that clings to your teeth – think sticky candies, dried fruit, and caramels – provides a steady source of fuel for oral bacteria. A small candy bar is actually better for your teeth than a bag of raisins.

Fruit juice and festive cocktails and energy drinks do double dental damage, as they’re packed with sugar and are acidic. The acid softens your tooth enamel, while the sugar feeds bad bacteria.

Even sugar-free foods such as candies and other fruit-flavored snacks can include citric acid and phosphoric acid, which can eat away at your tooth enamel. Recent research by the University of Melbourne’s Oral Health division found that fruit-flavored snacks and drinks tend to cause more dental damage than the mint-flavored ones.

After indulging in a sugary or acidic snack, the best thing to do is to rinse your mouth. But chances are you aren’t going to want to leave the theater to swish water over your teeth, right? Bring a pack of sugarless chewing gum with you – chewing on the gum will help to increase saliva flow which will squelch the bad bacteria and neutralize the acid levels in your mouth.

Last tip: drink water during those movie marathons. Dry mouth sets you up for dental decay, as saliva washes away food debris and helps keep your mouth clean and healthy. May the thirst (not) be with you! And the savings be vast with a dental savings plan or dental insurance!

 

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