The holiday season and Taking Care of Your Teeth

Just because the holidays are here, does not mean that one should neglect proper dental care. The best way to avoid cavities, while still enjoying your holiday meal is to practice good oral hygiene.

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The holiday season can wreak havoc on your teeth. Whether you’re sipping hot chocolate or toasting marshmallows by the fireplace, indulging in wintertime treats can lead to cavities and tooth decay down the line. Read on for a few tips on how to take care of your – and your family’s – teeth during the holidays.

Replace Unhealthy Treats. There’s definitely no shortage of sugary treats this time of year. From candy canes to dreidels full of chocolate coins, sweets are a holiday staple. Unfortunately, eating sugar encourages the development of tooth decay, including cavities. Sugar consumption is also tied to the development of plaque and periodontal disease.  It’s smart to completely avoid eating extra sugar whenever possible, or to at least limit your candy intake. For example, have one single-serving pre-wrapped chocolate, rather than half of the entire chocolate bar. If your kids are hooked on candy, try replacing treats with traditional, healthier options.
Give your kids clementines, pomegranates, apples and popcorn, rather than candy canes and chocolate. When baking cookies, use half the amount of sugar that a recipe calls for and add in a dash of cinnamon for extra flavor instead. If someone gifts your family candy for the holidays, use it to decorate your gingerbread house instead of eating it.

Here are some tips to help:

· If possible, try and eat foods with heavy-carbs, such as stuffing and rolls with a balanced meal consisting of some protein.

· Instead of having snacks throughout the day, eat a healthy snack once or twice a day. This helps to counteract and reduce the frequency of exposure to some of the acids produced. When bacteria, which are normally present in the mouth, combine with the sugars from food, they form a sticky substance known as plaque.

· Plaque converts the sugars into acids and begins to dissolve the tooth to form holes, known as cavities. To help prevent this, you should limit your consumption of sticky foods. These types of foods are more harmful because they remain on the teeth longer, and increase your cavity risk.

· After consuming high-acid foods (fruits) or drinks (wine), rinse with water, before brushing your teeth to prevent tooth erosion from the acids.

· Keep a toothbrush, floss, and travel-size toothpaste handy, so that you can brush and floss right after eating at holiday parties. The added benefit is you are less likely to eat after you brush and floss your teeth, so you may end up eating less at parties.

· If you’re unable to brush your teeth after eating; rinsing your mouth thoroughly with water or chewing sugar-free gum, will help to wash away food particles, produce more saliva, and neutralize acids in your mouth. By following these simple holiday dental care tips, you should be able to keep your teeth and gums healthy, while still enjoying  Happy Holidays!
Don’t Forget the Drinks. Tooth-harming sugar is often overlooked when it comes in liquid form. But apple cider, egg nog and hot chocolate are popular winter drinks that all pack plenty of sugar and can lead to dental issues. For a healthier option, choose a seasonal-flavored tea, such as candy cane peppermint, gingerbread spice, orange and cinnamon.
Brush Your Teeth Right Away. It’s not just important to brush twice a day and floss at least once daily – it also matters when you clean your teeth. Brushing, flossing and/or rinsing with a mouthwash immediately after eating something sweet helps to prevent dental decay and other issues. Also, make sure that you show your children how to brush and floss properly, and encourage them to brush their teeth as soon as possible after eating any sweets. To further protect your teeth, make sure that you and your family receive a teeth cleaning twice a year.

Wine

Whether red or white, the high acidity levels in wine can eat away at a tooth’s enamel. Tooth enamel is critical in the protection against decay and cavities. To avoid damage, refrain from swishing the wine around in your mouth, and drink water in between beverages to rinse the teeth of the acid. Cheers!

Sugary Treats

Bacteria in the mouth thrive on the sugars found in candy canes, chocolate, and gingerbread cookies, increasing the likelihood of developing cavities. If you are not able to brush and floss after munching on sweet treats, drink water or chew a piece of sugarless gum. This will boost saliva flow in the mouth and help wash away bacteria.

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