The holiday season is here! Actually, it seems the season becomes longer every year, with Christmas décor decking the halls of stores starting in September. From October through December, candy, treats, holiday meals and party foods (and adult beverages) are in abundant supply, all tempting us to not only overindulge, but to neglect our oral care routine. The extra sugary and acidic foods — plus changes in our routine — set the stage for tooth decay. How you navigate the holidays has an effect on your smile, as well as your overall health. Here’s our guide to taking care of your teeth throughout holiday festivities, so you can enjoy a bright, healthy smile throughout the next year!
Don’t Forget to Brush
For at least nine months of the year, you follow a routine that (hopefully) includes brushing and flossing at least twice a day. But come holiday season, that routine can be disrupted by trips to visit family, rounds of dinners and parties, etc. In addition, you’re more likely to be eating foods high in sugars and starches — and eating them more frequently than usual. When you’re away from home, especially, brushing may be more infrequent.
Unfortunately, such a change in schedule and diet can increase your risk of interproximal cavities — that is, cavities that occur between teeth. Absolute Dental offers a practical solution.
“If you are like most, chances are good you won’t find yourself at home twiddling your thumbs too often during the upcoming holidays. And you certainly won’t be eager to carve out time when you do finally get home each night for brushing, flossing, and gargling.
“So what to do? One of the hands-down best compromises is to pack a little to-go teeth cleaning kit that you can take to parties with you. Not only will this make you rescue-ready if you end up with spinach dip wedged between your two front teeth, but it will help you remember to care for your teeth during this particularly hectic time of year.”
However, if brushing isn’t an option, WebMD recommends chewing sugarless gum, which boosts saliva, helps flush out food debris and more.
Don’t Use Your Teeth as Tools
There’s a lot of activity and bustle during family gatherings and parties, so you may be tempted to forgo looking for a bottle opener, nutcracker or pair of scissors and use your pearly whites, instead. Don’t! Nothing spoils a celebration like a dental emergency, which is what you’ll have if you crack a tooth (or more than one).
If you believe in being prepared and you know that your dental office will be closed during the holidays, ask your dentist for a referral for emergencies. Know the location of the nearest emergency dental clinic. WebMD advises getting treatment as soon as possible, as waiting until the new year to fix a broken tooth or replace a lost filling could make the problem worse. If you’re traveling, call a local dental office for an appointment if you need emergency care. Most dentists set aside time for emergencies even for people who aren’t regular patients. Our blog post — “How Can You Tell If It’s A Dental Emergency?” – covers this topic in greater detail, and focuses on those that occur during the holidays.
Holiday Treats to Watch Out For
Sticky candies — These are really tough on teeth because as you eat them, they stick all over the surface of your teeth and won’t budge. Dried fruits — like holiday favorites cranberries and raisins — actually have the same effect, as they will stay stuck in the grooves of your teeth. The longer the contact the sweets have with the teeth, the more acid gets produced by bacteria, leading to cavities.
Canned fruit — While it may seem like a delicious side dish at your holiday dinner table, canned fruit can be surprisingly unhealthy. Most are packaged in syrup and coated in sugar, making them practically the same as a piece of candy.
Popcorn — This snack is notorious for cracking teeth when biting down too hard on a half-popped kernel. Unfortunately, the pieces of husk cause a big problem too, as they can get lodged in your gums and cause pain. Sugary, caramel-coated variations of the snack can cause a perfect storm of problems for your teeth.
Candy canes — This popular stocking-stuffer can crack your teeth if you bite down wrong. It may be better to let candies dissolve to prevent any chipping or other damage — but be sure to brush thoroughly after eating candy of any kind, or at least rinse your mouth with water. The same applies to peanut brittle and toffee. As far as potential damage to teeth is concerned, candy apples —which are popular for Halloween — perhaps deserve their own category in the treats-to-avoid list.
Sweet coffee drinks — Coffee is something you sip on and enjoy slowly, which actually creates a bigger problem for your teeth. Constant exposure to milk and sugar over the course of an hour or more make it difficult for the saliva to combat the sugars and acids produced by the bacteria in our mouths. Your saliva helps protect teeth from decay, but it can’t do its job as you continually sip from your coffee cup.
Seltzer — While this low-calorie drink is especially trendy right now, it is unfortunately not great for your teeth. In fact, a study from the University of Birmingham found that exposure to carbonated waters, like seltzer, can be as damaging for teeth enamel as orange juice — so you may want to let up on the bubbly beverages during your holiday celebrations.
Sodas and sweet tea — These beverages are certainly not limited to the holidays. Because they tend to be consumed regularly, they are perhaps among the biggest threats to your oral health. Did you know a can of Coke has about 12 teaspoons of sugar? Sweet tea is not much better. Stick to water or unsweetened tea as much as you can.
Enjoy the Holidays in Good Oral Health!
While it may seem we’ve emphasized the “don’ts” in our guide, here’s one more: Don’t feel that you need to forgo having fun! Maintaining good oral hygiene doesn’t require much extra effort, and will pay off with both optimum oral and physical health to achieve all you want to during the coming year!
At NK Family Dental, it is our mission to provide the highest quality and most compassionate oral care to our Chicago patients, including both dental and periodontal services. Our practice is trusted for advanced oral surgery procedures and comfortable root canal treatment.
Our team of experienced, dedicated dental professionals will help address your oral health concerns, and determine the best solution for you based on your individual situation. We strive to identify treatment options that fit your needs. Our dental specialists include our general dentist, Dr. Nilofer Khan, our endodontist, Dr. Sabek, and our periodontist, Dr. Amir Danesh. Dr. Danesh is a board-certified periodontist and Diplomat of the American Board of Periodontology. He has contributed to the publication of two books, as well as published over 20 papers in prestigious dental research journals.
We understand that the main concern you may have is cost, which is why we accept all major PPO plans for dental insurance and also offer our in-house dental plan. Please see our financing page for more information.