Q. How can I minimize the damage my kids do to their teeth with their Halloween candy?

A. Not all candy is created equal, says dentist Timothy Chase of Manhattan. He's come up with a rank from best to worst and advises parents to weed through candy when it comes home and jettison the worst of it.

"I have three boys of my own -- 7, 4 and 2," Chase says. "I think it's unrealistic to say, 'Give the kid an apple.' I go through and I pull out the most sticky, highest-sugar- content stuff. I'll also throw out some of the hard candy. What I'll let them keep is basic chocolate stuff. How are they going to complain if I'm giving them a Hershey bar?"

Here's Chase's candy ranking, from best to worst for teeth:

Sugar-free gum: It leaves no plaque-causing residue and is sweetened with xylitol, which bacteria don't feast on. Bacteria produce cavity-causing acid, so the more you feed them, the more you risk tooth decay.

Chocolate: So long as it doesn't have any sticky fillings.

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Powdery candy such as Pixie Stix: While they dissolve quickly and don't require chewing, they contain sugar that bacteria relish.

Sour candy: Its higher acidic content can break down enamel.

Hard candy such as lollipops or jawbreakers: They take a long time to dissolve, creating more acid in the mouth.

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Taffy and candies filled with caramel, coconut or nuts: They stick to the grooves of teeth.