Everyone loves the holidays…except your teeth.
The Holidays are a time of celebration, and celebration always means sweets and alcohol, which are two of your teeth’s most bitter enemies. In such a happy time, the last things you want are tooth sensitivity, cavities, or toothache, so here are some tips to keep your teeth as happy as the Holidays.
Watch How Many Sweets You Eat
Tooth decay is caused primarily by bacteria in the mouth, which produce acid that eats away at our tooth enamel. One thing that these bacteria thrive on is sugar. Therefore, one of the first steps to keeping your teeth healthy is limiting the amount of sugar you consume during the Holidays.
When relatives bring plates of cookies, try not to eat an entire plate yourself. When you see a dish of candies or toffees, try to limit yourself to a few. The less sugar you eat, the less “fuel” you give the bad bacteria in your mouth, which in turn limits the amount of enamel-destroying acid these bacteria make.
Try More Nutritious Dishes and Snacks
Instead of loading up on cookies and candies during the Holiday season, look into more nutritious snacks to curb your appetite. Although a party cliché, a vegetable tray is a great way to keep your stomach full while giving your teeth a boost. Throughout the day, our teeth go through an ebb-and-flow process of demineralization and remineralization; our teeth lose minerals, causing the enamel to weaken, but regain them from the foods we eat. Healthy foods can give us the minerals our teeth crave while satisfying our appetite.
Calcium is key to keeping our teeth strong, so look into foods that are low in sugar and high in calcium. Consider bringing a kale salad to your next holiday, for example. A good chile rich in white beans is another calcium-rich dish to consider. There are many other options, many of which are extremely delicious.
Bring Low-Sugar Sweets to the Party
Even though it’s important to cut sugar down to keep your teeth healthy, that doesn’t mean you have to cut out sweets entirely. In fact, cookie-lovers and pastry-heads can rejoice knowing that there are numerous low-sugar alternative recipes to their favorite desserts, letting them get the best of both worlds.
A quick internet search will yield hundreds, if not thousands, of low-sugar recipes that either rely on alternative sweeteners or simply cut the amount of sugar used. Looking at some new recipes can change things up for the better, cutting your sugar intake while allowing you to try new things, potentially. If you’re open to adjusting your recipes a little, here are some great options to cut calories without cutting the sweetness:
- Maple syrup
- Blackstrap molasses
Keep an Eye on Your Alcohol Consumption
Although pure alcohol kills bacteria, the other components of alcoholic beverages can do a number on your teeth. For example, wine has a significant alcohol content. However, wine is also highly acidic, which softens the tooth enamel when consumed. Softened tooth enamel is especially vulnerable to damage, especially if you brush your teeth while it’s still softened.
Also, many alcoholic drinks are high in sugar, which comes with all the problems mentioned above. As delicious as a glass of sangria or spiked eggnog is, these drinks are delicious, in part, because they are so sweet. Even beer, however, has sugars in it that fuel the enamel-eating bacteria resting on your teeth. Unless you’re drinking straight liquor, most drinks are going to have sugar that can damage your teeth.
Celebrations often mean increased alcohol consumption, which means increased sugar consumption. If you want to protect your teeth, limit yourself to a few drinks at your next Christmas party. All-night binge sessions certainly won’t do your teeth (or your liver) any favors these Holidays.
Don’t Forget to Brush!
When our parties go into the wee hours of night, it’s easy to go home to bed and collapse immediately, forgetting to brush completely. However, this can do a number on our teeth, especially if we’ve been downing drinks and Holiday treats all night. One of the most important parts in keeping our mouths healthy is proper oral care, especially when our sugar and acid consumption increases.
We should continue brushing at least twice a day during the holidays, preferably after breakfast and before bed. However, brushing an extra time or two during the Holidays can do wonders for your teeth, especially if you brush after every meal. Keeping your plaque levels in check will prevent tooth decay and keep tooth sensitivity at a minimum. If you gift yourself a “present” of skipping a toothbrushing session to get to bed quicker, you’re actually putting your teeth at risk for toothache and damage.
And Floss, Too!
Flossing is still a key part of oral maintenance during the Holidays. Christmas especially is a time for food that gets stuck in your teeth. Anyone who’s dined on a nice Christmas ham has probably had the joy of picking out those chunks of ham from between their molars. Candies are also no treat when it comes to getting stuff out from between our teeth.
It is imperative that you get this food debris out from between your teeth on a daily basis. If food is left to sit between our teeth, bacteria will feast on it and break down our tooth enamel between our teeth. Flossing once a day before bed should suffice, and it shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes each session. If you’re not up for that take a look at getting yourself a Waterpik. It’d make a great gift too!
The Holidays are such a joyous time. Don’t let preventable things like tooth decay and toothache ruin the fun. A few simple changes in your diet and your lifestyle are really all it takes to keep your teeth in top shape!