For many people, holiday foods are a favorite part of celebrating the holidays. However, many of these foods can be tough on teeth. Here are a few tips to help you safely enjoy the holidays and keep your oral health at its best.
Tooth decay is caused when bacteria on your teeth consume sugars and excrete an acidic by-product that dissolves your teeth, causing holes or “cavities”. The longer the sugar stays on your teeth, the longer these bacteria work to keep the acid in your mouth at a high level, leading to tooth decay.
While most foods have some type of sugar, many holiday foods are especially high in sugars. Making these foods even more dangerous to your teeth is the amount of time these sugars stick around. Several holiday foods like caramel, pecan pie, and gumdrops are very sticky, and leave residue on your teeth that stays put until you clean it off. Other sugary foods are meant to be consumed slowly, like suckers, candy canes, hard candies, and can also increase the amount of time your teeth are exposed to sugar. Don’t forget about sugary drinks like hot chocolate, egg nog, and alcohol that also fit into this category. These holiday snacks that can last throughout the whole day can all be prime culprits of tooth decay.
Protecting your teeth doesn’t have to mean avoiding all of these foods that make the holidays special. It just means consuming them in moderation, and cleaning your teeth well when you are finished. When you have a sugary snack, limit the time you are snacking to 30 minutes or less. This way, your saliva will be able to return your mouth to a healthy acid level and remineralize your teeth with calcium and fluoride ions dissolved in your saliva before the damage is irreversible. Sipping water after a sugary snack can also help cleanse your mouth by flushing off sugars and providing some of the same minerals that are in saliva.
Careful brushing and flossing are extremely important to maintaining healthy teeth. We tend to get lazy or forget oral hygiene when we are busy and outside of our normal schedule during the holidays, but oral hygiene is even more important at these times due to the added stresses of holiday foods. Bacteria are especially active at night time when our mouths become dry and there isn’t as much saliva to flush bacteria off teeth. Be sure to floss and brush your teeth every evening with a fluoridated toothpaste and then have nothing to eat or drink besides water until morning.
Another important part of your holiday routine should be making sure you’re up-to-date on dental exams and hygiene appointments. Even with meticulous homecare, your teeth will accumulate some plaque and tartar that must be professionally cleaned off at your dental visits. The holidays are a great time to get caught up on any dental visits that were missed throughout the year so that you can start the new year off with your healthiest smile.
Give us a call at 402-413-0505 to schedule your holiday check up. We look forward to helping you show your best and brightest smile over the holidays!