Caring For Your Teeth Over the Holidays: Naughty and Nice Oral Health Habits
Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Check this list twice! Here at Dr. Lance Johnson Family Dentistry, we dream of healthy, snowy white smiles when December rolls around. But we know that holiday temptations can wreak havoc on teeth if you’re not careful. That’s why we’ve put together this handy list of smart smile moves — and Grinch-y no-no’s you’ll want to avoid to protect your oral health.
Drink a Lot of Melted Snow
Okay, maybe not actual snow, but it’s more fun to say than “drink a lot of water.” Your saliva has a purpose: It helps rinse your mouth of bad-news bacteria and sugar. But beverages like coffee, cocktails, energy drinks, and tea can really make your mouth parched. Keep that saliva happy and flowing by drinking plenty of H20.
When It Comes to Teeth, Stick to the Schedule
Schedules tend to go out the window when the winter holidays arrive — but teeth always require brushing at least twice a day, in the morning and before bed. They’ll thank you if you brush them after rich holiday meals, too! However, side note! We recommend waiting about thirty minutes after your meal before brushing! This gives your own saliva a chance to balance out the pH in your mouth, which can be helpful for preventing tooth decay. Also, don’t skip your daily flossing and never fall asleep without brushing your pearly whites.
Never Open Presents, or Anything Else, With Your Teeth
You’d be amazed at how many folks damage their teeth or hurt their jaws by doing things over the holidays. Don’t ever rip open packaging with your teeth — the force can unexpectedly loosen or dislodge a permanent tooth. Wine or beer bottles are even more dangerous to attempt opening with your mouth, as glass can shatter and cut your lips, gums, or face. Teeth are not tools when it comes to holiday gift wrapping! Stick to scissors to tear that tape.
The Stain Blame: White vs. Red Wines Effect on Teeth
Keep teeth snowy white by sticking to white wine. Skip the red wine and opt for white if you’re in the mood to indulge, and keep hot cocoa, tea, and coffee to a minimum, or you’ll risk staining teeth.
Steer Clear of the Naughty Foods List
Acidic foods often masquerade as good-for-you foods. Citrus fruit like lemons, limes, and grapefruit are packed with Vitamin C and other happy nutrients. However, these fruits have a high acid content that can contribute to the erosion of your tooth enamel, make teeth vulnerable to cavities, and worsen sensitivity. Acidic foods can also cause discoloration of teeth. Oof! Be warned: Some acidic food slip under the radar: Did you know coffee, strawberries, and dill pickles also have high acid content?
Starchy foods can’t be that bad, right? Wrong. Starch, when broken down by saliva, converts to sugar–fast! And starchy foods tend to cling to and get stuck between teeth and inside the gums. Yes, even mashed potatoes can turn to sugar and impact your teeth. Pro tip: Make sure you eat your starches as part of a balanced meal, and you’re less likely to have starchy residue wedged in your smile.
Chewy goodness is usually chewy badness when your teeth are concerned. Sticky foods like caramel, taffy, nougat, sugary gum, Jolly Ranchers, and the annual fruitcake all pull at teeth, orthodontics, dentures, dental fillings and leave behind nasty residue on your smile. That gives bacteria extra time to multiply — if you don’t lose a filling first!
Sugar’s favorite season is the holiday season, of course. And we’re all usually happy to forget what a villain sugar can be to our teeth when we’re faced with tempting piles of cookies, Christmas logs, or a stocking filled with chocolate. But sugar stokes the bacteria in our mouth, creating the acid that causes tooth decay to fester. It’s not just holiday desserts, either: There’s tons of sugar in jellies and jams, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, juice, crackers, and cereal—and that’s just for starters.
Hard foods can wreck your teeth: caramel popcorn, gingerbread houses, and candy canes are a few of the most notorious holiday villains. Whether you bite a candy cane (don’t!) or suck on it (another don’t — how about just skip them?), you’re consuming pure sugar and risking breaking or chipping a tooth or filling. Yuck! The same goes for caramel popcorn, which has the added risk of those little kernels that wedge themselves into your gum line.
Stick with the Nice Foods List When it Comes to Holiday Eats
Red meat is surprisingly beneficial to teeth, as it contains an amino acid called arginine. Arginine has been proven to break down oral bacteria and keep plaque at bay. But be sure to cut up your meat into small bites to protect braces, retainers, or dentures.
Dark chocolate is far lower in sugar and dairy, so if you’re going to indulge in some chocolate, this is the way to go. Plus, dark chocolate has been proven to have other handy health benefits leaving you to indulge with little guilt and big rewards.
Cheese may not be great for your waistline, but it’s a friend to your tooth enamel. You can thank phosphate and calcium for that. These two elements make for happy pH levels in your mouth, keeping bacteria to a minimum and tooth enamel protected. And while you help yourself to a bit of cheddar, snag a few slices of fruit, too: The fiber in apples and strawberries works as a scrubbing agent for your teeth, keeping teeth shiny and stain-free.
And always say yes to another helping of superpower veggies like carrots, broccoli, zucchini, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower — they scrape food particles from your teeth too.
Give Yourself the Gift of Healthy Teeth and Gums By Visiting Dr. Lance Johnson Family Dentistry This Season
Don’t get us wrong: We want you to enjoy your holidays and all the yumminess that comes along with them! Just make smart choices and be sure to brush regularly, and your teeth will weather the annual onslaught of sugar-spiked treats just fine. And when the New Year rolls in, be sure to set up an appointment with us here at Dr. Lance Johnson Family Dentistry for your regular cleaning and exam. We’ll keep your smile on track and ready for many holidays to come.