Published on December 14, 2018, Updated on December 14, 2018
The holidays are a time when sweet treats, hot chocolates and yummy foods abound. Hot coffee in the morning, warm apple cider in the evening, chocolate throughout the day and other small delights may actually be harming your teeth. Many foods and drinks contain acids or sugars that can decay, stain and damage your teeth. You can avoid those issues and keep your teeth cleaned properly with the right tips and tricks squeezed into your busy holiday schedule.
When you think of the holidays, you probably start to think of all the different holiday dishes and desserts you have each year. Food can have a way of bringing people together and can remind you of traditions and feelings of home. There is a reason that some foods are considered “comfort foods”, and it’s because they make you feel good and remind you of “home” or special times. Unfortunately, some of those foods are the worst ones for your body and your teeth, but only if you eat them on a regular basis. The most popular holiday foods include:
Many of these holiday foods are definitely delicious, but most are full of sugar or substances that can strip minerals from your teeth. The ones we are talking about are sodas, drinks with citrus or carbonation and anything sugary.
Many people know that sugar isn’t good for you because it can cause health problems. How does it relate to your oral health? Sugar can literally rot your teeth out, even if that doesn’t happen in a day. When you eat, sugar will mix with your mouth bacteria. It creates a sticky, clear film that sticks to your teeth instead of going to your stomach. Once the bacteria and sugar mixes, the mixture—called plaque—is acidic. Because of that, acid will literally be sitting on your teeth.
When it stays there for a long time, it can break up the minerals in your teeth, weakening and thinning them. That’s how a cavity starts. Plaque can cause small openings in the teeth, which is how large internal cavities form. When decay has started, it simply grows from there. Sugar doesn’t only hurt your teeth, but it irritates your gums as well. Because plaque is acidic and it sits along your gum line, your gums will become red, inflamed and they may even bleed.
To get away from plaque, the gums will start to recede. That recession can happen so much that the teeth begin to fall out. That is why sugar is such a problem, especially when it is abundant in food. The more sugar you eat, the more plaque your mouth makes and the easier it is for your teeth to decay.
Hot chocolate is one of the most popular treats during the holidays and the winter season as a whole. Not only can it warm you up, but it can remind you of fun holidays with family and friends. Hot chocolate is also referred to as “cocoa”, “drinking chocolate” and even “chocolate tea” in some parts of the world. This is considered a treat because of the sugar content it contains. Your average cup of coffee will have about 24 grams of sugar or more. That’s about a full candy bar’s worth of sugar in just one cup of hot chocolate. That could mean cavities if you are filling up on this drink often without enough oral hygiene measures.
Some drinks you want to watch out for are ones with citric acid in them or carbonation. Carbonation especially is common in drinks during the holidays. Those fizzy bubbles come from carbonic acid reacting with water. Both citric acid and carbonic acid can erode your teeth and thin them. These acids are so powerful that you shouldn’t brush your teeth for 20-30 minutes after drinking, as you could take off even more of your tooth enamel. To limit your plaque production and erosion from acids, always drink with a straw.
We want you to enjoy all of your favorite holiday foods. However, we also want you to keep your teeth healthy throughout the holiday parties and delicious food they bring. That is why brushing and flossing is so important during this time, even though they are always important. Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes at a time, as recommended by the American Dental Association. Follow that up with flossing 1-2 times a day. Make sure you still visit the dentist at least twice a year for biannual dental cleanings and comprehensive exams.
It can be hard to remember to take care of your teeth during the holidays, especially if you are traveling and away from home. Make a small oral care kit that can fit in your purse or even your pocket. When you get a spare moment or you visit a bathroom, take a minute or two to brush and floss your teeth. This will help you get through the holidays without any cavities. To gain a bit of extra protection, try using fluoride toothpaste or treatments that can help strengthen your teeth against decay. For help with your oral care and what to do if you have braces, call Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics today at (720) 887-6003!