It’s that time of year, Thanksgiving has come and gone and Christmas is just around the corner. Everyone is geared up and ready for the festivities to get underway! Champagne, chocolates, and umpteen bags of Christmas treats will no doubt make their way into our festive diets.
Christmas is a time for good company and good food. The saying “you are what you eat” is particularly true for your teeth and gums. Constant snacking on sugary foods and drinking over Christmas can make the holiday season a miserable time for teeth. For this reason, it is important to be extra vigilant with your oral health throughout the winter holidays. Remember, teeth are under attack for up to one hour after eating or drinking. If you think about how much how often you eat, particularly during Christmas, you’ll realize that your teeth don’t really get the chance to recover. While we all know the negative effect of eating too much food has on the body, we hardly consider the impact of the holiday season on our teeth. To help them keep in good shape during the festivities, here are the best and the worstChristmas treats for your teeth.
Christmas Treats On the Naughty List:
Candy Canes and Sugar Cookies
Sweets and Christmas go hand in hand. However, no matter how delicious they are, red and white striped candy canes are 100% sugar. When this sugar is left behind in your mouth, it promotes the growth of bacteria which leads to cavities. The bacteria breaks down the sugar into acid, which erodes the thickest layer of the teeth (enamel). And there you have it, some brand new Christmas cavities.
Sticky, Chewy Treats and Caramel:
These are one of the main culprits harming our teeth. Not only do they get stuck in the teeth, candies also get lodged in between the teeth and are difficult to remove. Sticky candies keep the sugar level in your mouth high, which prompts the oral bacteria to produce more acid and therefore, cavities. They also pose a danger to crowns and fillings and can cause dislodgement.
There will undoubtedly be plenty of wine flowing during the Christmas season. Sadly, red wine is full of chromogens, which produce tooth discoloring agents. It also contains tannins that tend to dry out the mouth and make the teeth sticky, worsening the stains in the process. White wine is more acidic in nature and can erode the outer layer of teeth. This leads to deeper staining of future food and drink.
Citrus fruits, like lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges, contain vitamin C and give you a burst of refreshing flavor. Vitamin C can even help your gums heal. However, citrus foods are also highly acidic, which means they can cause enamel erosion, making you more susceptible to tooth decay and increased sensitivity. Adding an occasional squeeze of lemon or lime to your water is acceptable. If you want to eat them, it is preferable to eat them with large meals so the saliva produced during eating can wash away the citric acid.
Dried fruits often find their way into seasonal salads, Christmas treats, holiday gift baskets, and stuffings. However, remember the benefits of eating dry fruits are not the same as eating their fresh counterparts. Dried fruits such apricots, prunes, and raisins stick to your teeth, creating a breeding ground for the bacteria and increasing the chance of enamel erosion. If you need to snack on dried fruits, it’s best to mix them with the nuts, which can help scrape the dried fruit residue off your teeth.
Foods that make the Good List:
Leafy, Green Vegetables
These might not be on top of your list for holiday festivities. But, leafy, green vegetables are really healthy for your teeth. Vegetables such as spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, and other high-fiber vegetables ‘wash’ our teeth because they require more chewing. Increased chewing produces more saliva, a natural lubricant for our teeth.
Indulging in nuts is another benefit of the Christmas holidays. These treats seem to appear each Christmas season. Cashews, almonds, walnuts all contain a number of healthy vitamins and nutrients, including calcium, iron, and magnesium. These nutrients work together to keep your teeth strong. Nuts also tend to produce more saliva, which washes out the bacteria from your mouth and helps to neutralize the corrosive action of acids.
Cheese is one holiday treat that is beneficial for your teeth and oral health. Cheese contains casein, a protein with protective properties that helps fight cavities. It is a natural saliva producer and helps to neutralize the acidic content of the mouth. It also contains calcium and phosphorus, which promote teeth re-mineralization, a process which helps prevent cavities. Calcium promotes overall bone health and can be found in other dairy products including yogurt and ice cream.
Sugarless Chewing Gum
This is another saliva producer, and chewing on it increases the salivary flow. This helps restore the natural acid-base balance in the mouth. Increased saliva flow also cleanses your teeth and helps it get rid of food particles that get lodged in-between teeth.
Tips for a Healthy Mouth:
Making it through the holidays without eating any sugary candies or treats is probably an unrealistic expectation. Below are few tips, one should keep in mind for healthy teeth.
- Consume sugary Christmas treats with meals: Your mouth makes more saliva during meals, and this helps to reduce the effect of acid production and to rinse pieces of food from the mouth.
- Limit between-meal snacks: If you crave a snack, choose something nutritious. Consider chewing sugarless gum afterward to increase saliva flow and wash out food and acid.
- Brush your teeth twice and floss once a day. Do not let the festive mood make you skip your daily oral hygiene routine!
- Moderation: Moderation is definitely the most important thing to remember. In order to ensure you fully enjoy this time of year without having to compromise on what you eat and drink, bear in mind it is not how much sugary food and drink you have, it is how often you have them. It’s ok to say no to that extra sweet treat as the tin comes round, or have a glass of milk instead of one last glass of your favorite carbonated drink.