Guess who loves eating holiday treats as much as you do? Friends? Yup. Family? Uh-huh. Kids? You betcha. And guess who else? The bacteria in your mouth.
Ew. How’s that for sucking the joy out of your holiday dining?
Thankfully, a few simple steps taken during holiday meals, get-togethers, and parties can minimize damage to your teeth and gums, and keep your dental work – including orthodontia – intact.
Eating and drinking sugary foods and drinks for prolonged periods of time increase your chances of gum disease and tooth decay. And let’s face it, there is nothing like a holiday get-together to keep folks mindlessly indulging on whatever is in front of them…for hours on end.
Now, while it would be ideal for our health, waistlines, and teeth to avoid certain fare altogether, barring the strongest willpower imaginable, it’s probably not going to happen. Celebrations beget temptations, and holidays are a time to relax, splurge, and enjoy.
A little preparation, however, can go a long way in managing dental health and damage control. Here are some things you can do that will help you enjoy the holiday season without destroying your teeth:
Eat sweets WITH (rather than after) your meal. The excess saliva will help wash down the sugar so it doesn’t linger on your teeth.
Drink plenty of water. Water cleans the mouth and produces saliva that deposits essential minerals that build tooth enamel. Water also keeps gums hydrated and washes away food particles from teeth.
Get plenty of rest during the holidays. A minimum of 8 hours’ sleep plays a role in your overall health, including your dental health.
Cheese contains natural cavity-fighting agents, as well as vitamins that strengthen teeth. The calcium and phosphate in cheese helps balance pH levels in the mouth, preserves tooth enamel, produces saliva, and kills bacteria that cause cavities and disease.
Fruits, such as apples, strawberries and kiwis, scrub your teeth when you eat them. When the natural fibers of the fruits combine with saliva in the mouth, they help wash away food particles and stain-causing bacteria.
Vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and cucumbers can help clean your teeth and gums by removing food particles that can build up into plaque.
Chewing on fresh herbs, like parsley, cilantro, and mint helps decrease odors caused by a buildup of bacteria. Put them in your salad!
It’s no surprise that sweets are not recommended when it comes to protecting your teeth and safeguarding your dental work, but some, while they may taste very nice, are particularly naughty. Be especially careful with:
Candy canes (teeth and dental work, beware!)
Peppermint bark (if your teeth are fragile, you should break this into small pieces and then dip the pieces into milk, coffee, or tea to soften)
Crunchy Christmas cookies (see Peppermint bark, above)
Caramels, taffy, peanut brittle, and pecan pie (the stickier the treat, the more damaging it is to your teeth)
Holiday drinks (eggnog, cider, and hot chocolate…oh, my)
Wine (red AND white cause discoloration and make holes in teeth)
Popcorn (be careful of kernels)
Fruitcake (there may be chewy dried fruit lurking within)
If you forget the specific tips above just remember this: if it’s good for your body, it’s good for your mouth…and vice versa.
Maintaining good oral hygiene at home is a must to prevent tooth decay and gum disease—the deadly duo of dental distress. Tooth decay is the world’s most common chronic disease, while periodontitis (gum disease) is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.
But no matter how great your oral care routines are, you need regular dental check-ups and cleanings. If you’ve been putting them off due to budget issues, make 2018 the year that you really ramp up your self-care. First step: visit dentalplans.com to find out how to save 10%-60% on your dental care needs now.