Oral Health and the Holiday Season

When the holiday season comes around, it brings more than frigid nights; it brings family, presents, and a truckload of food—especially sweets. We certainly don’t want to miss out on all the delicious holiday sweets, but how do you keep teeth healthy throughout the holidays? Here are a few tips that will ensure you can enjoy the holidays without sacrificing your oral health.

Watch what you drink.

As you’re frantically preparing for house guests, cooking meals, and buying last-minute gifts, it’s easy to drink caffeinated drinks constantly in an attempt to keep yourself going. Most of these drinks can wreak havoc on your teeth, however. The high sugar content in sodas, flavored coffees, and teas is bad for your teeth, as is the high acidity level of sodas. Additionally, these dark-colored drinks will stain your teeth if you drink too much of them.

While drinking a cup of coffee in the morning to get you started isn’t a bad thing, you should limit how much of these beverages you’re taking in. Instead, opt for water; it’s more hydrating and actively works to fight cavities by clearing food debris away and lowering the acidity level of your mouth.

Watching what you drink is one of the ways to keep teeth healthy during the holiday season.

Pay attention to your stress levels.

When they’re under a lot of stress, some people tend to clench or grind their teeth, which can lead to jaw pain, headaches, and even chipped teeth. These symptoms can make it even harder to get your holiday to-do list done on time, only increasing your stress levels. Try to pay attention to how you’re responding to the stress of the holidays. 

 If you find that you’re clenching or grinding your teeth, try some stress-relieving methods that you can practice while still getting things done, such as gently massaging the muscles around your jaw. If you’re grinding your teeth at night, talk to Dr. Alhadef about getting a mouthguard to wear while you sleep to protect your teeth at night. You should also try finding some time each day, even if it’s just a few minutes, to sit down and relax. This will help your overall anxiety level more than you might expect.

Snack smart.

Although there’s likely an abundance of sweet and carbohydrate-rich snacks around, limit both the amount of these foods you’re eating and how often you’re snacking. Sugar generally gets all the blame for causing cavities, but it’s not the only culprit: carbohydrates are also a major contributor. This is because carbohydrates are easily broken down into sugar once they’re in your mouth, and since starchy foods tend to stick directly to the surface of your teeth for extended periods of time, they provide bacteria with food for a lot longer.

Eating either of these types of foods throughout the day, even if it’s just a few bites here and there, is a bad idea. Grazing gives the bacteria in your mouth more regular contact with food, allowing them to create more acid in your mouth. To keep teeth healthy, try to eat dessert right after dinner; it’s much better to have a bigger dessert once than small bits of dessert throughout the day. When you do have a hankering for a snack, try to stick to fruits and vegetables, such as cantaloupe or carrots, as many of these foods contain vitamins and minerals that are good for your enamel. These healthy foods will also give you more of a long-lasting energy boost than simple sugar will, helping you power through your busy day.

Don’t use your teeth as a tool.

Although it’s tempting to try and use your teeth to tear through packaging or open a stubborn bottle, it’s not a great idea. Your enamel is tough, but it’s brittle. You can easily chip, crack or break your teeth if you try to use them as a tool. This also holds true if you try to use your teeth to crack open nuts. Although they’re a natural—and healthy—snack, nuts have hard shells that are equally capable of injuring your teeth.

Since you certainly don’t want to spend the holiday in pain or at Dr. Alhadef’s office, find something else to open a stubborn bottle or to crack open your nutty snack. Even plastic packaging, which might seem harmless, will do damage to your teeth, wearing them down and weakening the enamel, making them more sensitive and prone to injury over time. Eventually, this could lead to a good deal of pain and an expensive procedure to repair the affected teeth.

Stick to your routine.

Although the holidays are an incredibly busy time which can throw off your daily routine in a number of ways, sticking to your oral hygiene routine is important if you want to keep teeth healthy. No matter how tired you are, caring for your teeth only takes about five minutes, but it’s incredibly necessary—especially with all the extra sweets lying around the house. Find the time to brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss and use mouthwash at least once daily, and don’t avoid the dentist if your biannual appointment falls in the holiday season.

Despite the stress they can sometimes bring, the holidays are a great chance to spend time with family and enjoy some great food. Thankfully, your oral health doesn’t have to suffer from the holiday frenzy or all the rich foods; if you take a few minutes each day to care for your teeth and change just a few habits, your teeth can stay healthy and sparkling white throughout the holiday season.

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