Houses and yards are decked out in sparkling lights and colorful decorations. Perhaps you’re looking forward to some time off work and your kids are eagerly anticipating a break from school.
The most festive time of year is here — and, if you’re like a lot of people, you can’t wait to indulge in some of your favorite edible holiday traditions.
But indulge with care: while some seasonal favorites are beneficial for your teeth and gums, others will wreak havoc on your dental health. Read on to learn how you can help keep your and your family’s smiles in great shape through the holiday season.
Consume with Caution
If you’ve been looking forward all year long to your aunt Irma’s Christmas fruitcake, we aren’t going to say you have to avoid it completely. But the following holiday foods should be eaten in extreme moderation, if at all.
Few treats capture the spirit of the season like these pretty striped treats. But, like all hard candies, they are terrible for your dental health. When you suck on hard candy, it melts in your mouth, creating a mixture of liquid sugar and saliva that coats your teeth and gums. Bacteria feast on the slurry and proliferate. This generates acids that go to work destroying the tooth enamel, leaving you vulnerable to cavities and decay. If you are an impatient sort who prefers chewing the candy cane, you risk chipping or cracking a tooth. Dental emergencies during the holiday season are definitely not festive!
If you are a fruitcake lover (we know you are out there, somewhere), be advised that your beloved treat is a nightmare for your teeth. The same heavy, moist texture that makes the cake ripe for doorstop jokes is perfect for nestling into the grooves of the teeth — and staying there. And those sticky candied fruits will also hang out on your teeth long past their welcome. The sugar and carbs bring on the bacteria, which produce damaging acids.
If you are a fruitcake hater, well, now you have a valid excuse to tell Aunt Irma as to why you can’t indulge in her holiday specialty.
Eggnog is rich, sweet, and delicious for sure, but keep consumption to a minimum. Its viscous texture is ideal for helping the sugar cling to your teeth, where it settles into all of the nooks, crannies, and crevices. And you know what that means: a big party in your mouth for acid-producing bacteria. If you can’t live without your yearly fix, try to keep it to one small cup and drink some water afterward to help rinse away the bad stuff.
The booze tends to flow freely this time of year, but be very careful to drink in extreme moderation. This is good advice for all sorts of reasons, including alcohol’s effects on your dental health. Alcoholic drinks cause dehydration and actually decrease saliva production in your mouth. This enables damaging bacteria to hang around longer in your mouth and do more damage. Alcoholic beverages — even white wine — will stain your teeth. Chronic heavy drinking leads to a much higher risk for gum disease and oral cancer. If you do indulge in a drink or two over the holidays, be sure to supplement it with lots of water so that you stay hydrated.
And Now, the Good News
So you’re at a holiday party, standing in front of an amazing spread of food. Which nibbles should you reach for?
If you see a bowl of nuts, take a handful. Nuts are low in sugar and packed with vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. They also help keep your mouth clean by stimulating saliva flow.
Raw, Crunchy Vegetables
Head straight for that crudite tray and load up your plate. Raw vegetables help keep your whole body healthy with all the nutrients they contain. They also stimulate the gums when you chew them, and increase production of cleansing saliva in your mouth.
All dairy products are excellent source of calcium, which is a mineral that your teeth need to maintain their strength and structure. Cheese is a superstar even amongst dairy products, though. It alone has been shown to raise pH levels in the mouth. This makes for a less attractive environment for bacteria and reduces the likelihood of decay.