Getting through the holidays without smashing a few molasses cookies or several pieces of pie. And then there are the peppermint barks, candy canes, caramel popcorn – the holidays are sweet in a lot of ways. But all that sugar can destroy your teeth if you let it. The holidays are a great time to indulge, but they’re also a great time to step up your oral care routine to keep up with your sugar intake.
Here are 5 tips to help you protect your teeth from all of that confectionary holiday bliss:
1. Drink plenty of water.
Is there an article about oral health that doesn’t mention drinking a bunch of water? Probably not – it’s good for your teeth 24/7/365, but it’s even more useful when you’re actively trying to flush bad stuff like sugars out of your teeth and gums. Staying hydrated preserves saliva function, which is your body’s natural teeth-cleaning solution. Plus, the act of drinking water prevents bacteria and plaque buildup.
2. Choose homemade over prepackaged.
We’re all busy during the holidays, and it’s easy to grab a packaged box of cookies – not to mention those pre-fab cookie and popcorn tins. But processed sugars are terrible for your teeth; they’re smaller molecules than raw sugar, making them super easy for bacteria to use for fuel. Whenever possible, choose homemade desserts – you can get that store-bought stuff any time of year, but not your great aunt’s cherry chocolate cake.
3. Only eat (or drink!) sweets with meals.
Cookies seem to be on-hand constantly during the holiday season, which can make it tempting to snatch one or two from the tin between meals. Try to resist this urge. Not only will your post-holidays waistline thank you, but so will your teeth – they need a break once in a while to protect your enamel.
4. Brush your teeth after eating – but wait at least 30 minutes first.
Brushing your teeth after a particularly sweet meal is always a good idea, but especially so when you’re having sweets all the time. However, never brush your teeth directly after eating sweets or drinking beverages like wine or egg nog. Wait 30-60 minutes to avoid brushing away your tooth enamel.
5. Get some healthy snacks in there, too.
Hankering for a little something after that giant afternoon meal at the family get-together? Choose something like celery sticks, cheese or nuts. All three have teeth-protecting factors – the fibrous structure of celery, the calcium and phosphate in cheese, the magnesium and crunchiness of nuts. Maybe grab some pecans instead of another slice of pecan pie – your teeth will thank you.
You don’t have to cut out all the treats you spend the rest of the year anticipating in order to keep your teeth in good health through that sugar-filled gauntlet. Just take extra care of your teeth… and maybe set up an appointment with your dental specialist for sometime in January.