The holidays are upon us, and with these festivities come the feasts! You might find yourself eating more sweets than you usually do — or changing your healthy dental habits to adapt to multiple celebrations. However, even changes that only last through the holiday season are enough to do damage to your pearly whites. It’s important to take some steps to help protect your smile and ensure a healthy holiday season.
What can happen to my teeth during the holidays?
Your teeth’s number one enemy is sugar, and the holidays are a time when desserts play center stage. Buckets of Halloween candy are just the start to a season that prides itself on pies of all flavors, candy canes, and homemade cookies, cakes, fudges, and other desserts crafted specially for family gatherings. Those sweets are central in holiday traditions and memories, but you don’t want those memories tarnished by an emergency trip to the dentist during this time.
Bacteria that already live in our mouth naturally devour the sugar we eat, leaving acid behind. This acid is responsible for eroding our enamel and leading to tooth decay, cavities, and worse. Since we typically eat even more sugar than normal during the holiday season, we can really wreak havoc on the health of our teeth — not to mention rack up extra sensitivity.
Beyond the damage that sugar can do to our smile, there are a number of treats that can cause extra harm. In a worst-case scenario, highly sticky candies like taffy can yank out fillings. Hard desserts like peanut brittle can damage existing dental work or even crack or break natural teeth. Before you take a bite, ask yourself: is this item worth the risk of having to schedule an emergency appointment with the dentist? Plan accordingly!
How can I ensure healthy holiday habits for my teeth?
Don’t treat your teeth like tools. Avoid using them to open packaging, remove tags, and other similar situations. Even seemingly innocuous tasks could damage dental work — or even your natural teeth. Likewise, leave cracking nutshells to nutcrackers. You could land in an emergency dental appointment in the middle of holiday festivities, making this year certainly memorable — but not in a good way.
Whenever possible, try to brush your teeth after eating meals — particularly when those meals entail delicious desserts. Pack a travel toothbrush, floss, and travel-sized tube of toothpaste in your purse or travel bag to use between meals. There are also a number of single-use, disposable teeth-cleaning options available on the market for just these kinds of situations. That way, you can have the tools you need on hand to clean your teeth without the extra worry of transporting your toothbrush and toothpaste everywhere you go.
No matter how much you might try to be prepared for anything, a holiday meal — or treat — might just catch you unaware. If you’re caught without your teeth-cleaning tools, even rinsing with plain water is better than nothing. Doing so after meals and snacks can help neutralize the acids that the sugar-eating bacteria leave on your teeth.
In the end, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to completely restrict yourself from the treats that make the holiday fun. Everything in moderation — and rinse with water afterward.
What are some healthy holiday activities that won’t hurt my teeth?
When it comes to delicious holiday feasts, prioritize the treats that mean the most to you. For example, indulge when it comes to a meaningful dessert recipe handed down from generation to generation, but skip the soda. Trade sugary, carbonated beverages with water — especially since they’re not the stars of the show when it comes to sweets.
Also, try not to snack throughout the day. The buildup of debris in and around your teeth coupled with the accumulation of sugar and acid can harm your teeth. Strive to eat once — even with desserts — and then brush or rinse your mouth.
Think about what kinds of desserts could be good alternatives to the traditional, rich, sugary treats normally found at holiday celebrations. There are plenty of delicious low-sugar options in cookies, brownies, and bars. You can also cook these recipes in a way to ward off overly crunchy treats that might cause tooth breakages. There are even healthy options, like yogurt parfaits, fruit-based desserts, and more. Think about where you could replace syrups and whipped creams with fresh fruit toppings, like on cheesecakes and pancakes. With all the sweetener alternatives available nowadays, you don’t have to trade taste for health.
Above all, make sure you continue to brush and floss your teeth twice a day — even if you’re traveling out of town for the holidays or attending multiple gatherings. Don’t miss out on your healthy dental hygiene habits just because it’s the holidays!
If you have questions about your dental health or would like to schedule an appointment, call us today at Lifetime Dental Health at (614) 333-9442.