The holiday season can be a time to have fun and eat heartily; but moderation and good oral hygiene will avoid future problems with your teeth. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa may offer plenty of sweets and special beverages that can damage teeth if we aren’t careful. Here are some tips from dentists to help prevent cavities and save your teeth from damage. Follow these simple suggestions to keep your smile looking bright this holiday season and into the new year.
- Stick to a routine – Brushing twice a day is integral to maintaining strong health. Make time to brush and floss like you normally would in-between holiday celebrations, even when your schedule gets hectic. It can be difficult to make time for usual routines (especially when you’re tired), but your mouth will thank you for protecting the teeth and gums.
- Carry a cleaning kit – For most people, the holidays mean parties and special occasions. Bring a portable cleaning kit with you to parties (at work and elsewhere) and clean your teeth on the go. Include a toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss. Use the kit to keep teeth clean no matter how busy you become. It’s especially important for social gatherings when you have food trapped in your front teeth.
- Drink plenty of water – Additional activities and obligations during the holiday season can be draining. It’s tempting to use sports drinks or coffee for an energy boost, but water gives the best health results. Drinking plenty of water keeps skin looking fresh and healthy, and the body hydrated. Drinking water between sugary or acidic beverages can rinse away sugars, acids, and freshly formed bacteria. All this will avoid decay and keep your breath a little fresher.
- Eat “teeth-healthy” foods – You’ll likely eat plenty of goodies, both naughty and nice, over the holidays. While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional splurge on a special occasion, balance treats with healthy options. Eat plenty of crunchy fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose healthy meat options (like lean beef, skinless poultry, and fish). Yogurt, cheese, and fruit are nutritious snack options that won’t stick to teeth as easily.
- Watch what you eat – Enjoy a few treats, but eat in moderation. Watch out for sticky foods (e.g. caramel, taffy, and dried fruit). Sticky food can cling to teeth and damage enamel. Drink water (or swish with it) after eating. 20 minutes after consuming sugary or acidic food/beverages, brush carefully to remove food particles. Hard candy is another concern. Not only is it sugary, but it can chip teeth. Encourage your children to make smart choices and limit their candy intake. It might be a good idea to schedule a January cleaning with your kids’ dentist, just in case!
- Time your snacks – Timing does matter when it comes to eating at odd times, or having more special foods than usual. We often start to salivate around meal times, when the body anticipates eating. Saliva helps neutralize acids and rinse away food particles; it’s a natural way to clean the teeth. Limit snacks to the time after meals to take advantage of extra saliva production. Goodies are usually designated for dessert time to top off a balanced meal. Eating sugary snacks can spoil your appetite and throw off your regular metabolism.
- Limit alcohol intake – Eggnog, hot buttered rum, and mulled wine are some festive holiday choices offered this time of year. However, try to limit how many cocktails you drink in one setting. Alcohol can dry out the mouth, which encourages bacterial growth. Enjoy plenty of water throughout an event to rehydrate the body and freshen your mouth. As an extra bonus, water helps dilute alcohol, helping you remain sober (and feel better in the morning).
- Pick light-coloured drinks – If you’ve had your teeth whitened, you want to keep them looking good for as long as possible. Drinks like red wine and coffee can stain teeth. Choose lighter-coloured drinks to keep teeth bright. For example, white wine has many of the same health benefits (e.g. antioxidants) as red wine, but has the added bonus of not staining your teeth.
- Have some cheese – Alcohol has a high acid content. When enjoying a beverage at a holiday party, have some cheese between sips to counteract the effects of acidity. Too much acid can wear away at enamel, making teeth more vulnerable to decay. The alkaline in cheese helps neutralize acid.
- Use a nutcracker – To avoid damaging teeth, use a nutcracker to open shells. Avoid using your teeth to open anything (e.g. presents, bottles, or packages). Doing so can damage enamel, or crack teeth. Teeth make poor tools. Use scissors and bottle openers to prevent unexpected damage.
- Chew cinnamon gum – Sugar-free gum can freshen the mouth without encouraging germs to grow on teeth. Cinnamon gum, in particular, contains cinnamaldehyde, an essential oil that stokes the salivary glands naturally. Its presence helps your mouth eliminate harmful bacteria. Chew sugar-free gum to keep bacterial growth to a minimum, especially if you’re sampling plenty of goodies.
- Schedule a post-holiday checkup – If you haven’t had a dental checkup in several months, make an appointment with your dentist shortly after the holidays. The new year is a great time to assess your dental health and address any underlying issues, so you can start the year with confidence.
Enjoy the holidays, but take good care of yourself. Your oral health is an important part of general physical health. Avoid foods that can cause damage to teeth and gums. Give your teeth the care they need, and meet with your dentist twice a year for cleanings and checkups.
For quality dental services in Oshawa, give Simcoe Smile Dental a call. We take pride in the personal care and attention we give all our patients. If you’re looking for a friendly, caring environment offering the latest technology, we’re here to serve patients of all ages. Our family dental services include preventive, restorative, and cosmetic treatments to meet your needs. Call (289) 312-1482 to make an appointment; we’re ready to help.