Swap out sweets for these healthier treats

Hankering for something sweet and delicious? Don't deny your sweet tooth. With these healthy swap-outs, you can satisfy your sugar cravings without risking cavities.

The troublemaker: Gummies

They may be cute and colorful, but gummies are bad news for your teeth. Not only are they packed with sugar, but that gummy texture also means they stick to teeth long after you're done chewing. And sour gummies pack a dangerous punch: The acid can wear away your enamel, making your teeth vulnerable to decay.

The alternative: Fruit salad

A fresh fruit salad offers a rainbow of delicious fruity flavors — without the processed sugar. Cantaloupe is a great option for a treat low in acid and packed with refreshing flavor. Sweet and crunchy fruits such as apples can satisfy your sweet tooth while leaving your mouth refreshed.

The troublemaker: Hard candy

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a lollipop? Too many for your teeth.

Hard candy takes minutes to dissolve in your mouth, and your teeth are directly exposed to sugar and acid during that time. What's more, you can accidentally crack or chip your teeth by biting down.

The alternative: Sugar-free gum

Keep your mouth tasting sweet with gum. Chewing gum can reduce acidity in your mouth and wash away harmful bacteria.

Just make sure your gum is sugar-free. The sugar substitute xylitol is a great option that may even protect against cavities.

The troublemaker: Caramel

Why is caramel a dentist's nightmare? First off, it's packed with sugar. A caramel candy is at least two-thirds sugar! On top of that, its sticky texture helps it coat your teeth, so it stays in your mouth longer. It's a recipe for decay.

The alternative: Dark chocolate

Chocolate dissolves easily, which means it has much less contact with your teeth than caramel. That’s why nearly 80% of dentists who hand out candy on Halloween choose chocolate, according to a Delta Dental Plans Association survey in 2011.

Plus, chocolate, especially dark chocolate, generally has a lower sugar content than other candies. To lessen the impact of chocolate even more, wash it down with a glass of whole milk.

Candy tips

Lower your risk of cavities with these easy tips:

• Always brush and floss after snacking. If you love sour candies, wait half an hour before brushing to let your enamel recover. High levels of acid can soften your teeth.

• Enjoy candy in a single sitting instead of snacking throughout the day. That way, your teeth aren't exposed to sugar for as long.

• Pair sweets with other foods or drinks to lower the concentration of sugar. Milk can be a great option, since the high fat content helps cut the sugar concentration, according to Roger Lucas, DDS, author of More Chocolate, No Cavities.

• Consider selling back your trick-or-treating stash. You can look for a nearby dentist participating in a candy buy-back program