Holiday sweets can be tough on teeth…
The winter holidays are known for sweet treats and tempting goodies, but that doesn’t mean that you have to end up at the dentist with cavities in January.
How do sweet foods and drinks cause cavities?
When you eat sugary foods or drinks, naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugar and create acids as a by-product. These acids then wear down the tooth enamel, making it weaker and more susceptible to tooth decay as well as a host of other problems, including gingivitis.
Snacking on sweets throughout the day or during an extended period of time (such as at a holiday party) is especially harmful, since damaging acids form in the mouth every time you eat a sugary snack and continue to affect the teeth for at least 20 minutes afterwards.
“Snacking on sweets and sugary beverages throughout the day can increase the chance of tooth decay and gum disease,” says Ken Sutherland, DDS, a senior Delta Dental dentist consultant. “Brushing and flossing after snacks definitely reduces bacteria.”
Simple steps for holiday oral care
The best way to avoid cavities while still enjoying your holiday indulgences is to practice good oral hygiene. Here are some tips to help:
- Eating sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods as part of a balanced meal is better than eating them alone. The body produces more saliva to help digest larger meals, which washes away more food and helps neutralize harmful acids before they can attack teeth.
- Foods that take a long time to chew can damage teeth. That’s because sticky foods, including nutritious choices like raisins, dates and dried fruit, hold acid against teeth longer than do other foods. Try to limit your consumption of these foods.
- After consuming high-acid food (fruits) or drinks (wine), rinse with water before brushing your teeth to prevent tooth erosion from the acids.
- Keep a toothbrush and travel-size toothpaste handy (for example, in your pocket or purse or store these in the glove compartment of your car) so that you can brush right after eating at holiday parties. An added benefit is that you are less likely to eat after you brush your teeth, so you may end up eating less at parties.
- If you’re unable to brush your teeth after eating, rinsing your mouth thoroughly with water or chewing sugar-free gum will help to wash away food particles, produce more saliva and neutralize acids in your mouth
“Brush up” on your technique
Use your holiday vacations to spend more time brushing your teeth. If you’re relaxed or have more free time during the day or with your morning or nightly routine, you can use the time to brush more thoroughly and develop better oral care habits.
It isn’t necessary to brush vigorously to get your teeth clean. What’s important when brushing your teeth is not how hard you scrub, but that you use the proper technique and that you do a thorough job. And that takes time. Dentists recommend that you brush your teeth for two to three minutes to get the most thorough cleaning.
If you get into the habit of brushing for two to three minutes every morning, every night and after every meal during the holidays, you may keep those good habits when your regular routine resumes.
The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.