Protecting your teeth through the winter requires taking extra care during the holidays to watch what you eat. A Thanksgiving day meal of fatty foods may give you indigestion, but gravy and turkey are unlikely to threaten your oral health. These five holiday beverages and snacks are far more threatening, both to the teeth themselves and the rest of your mouth. Emerge from the winter with a healthy, white smile by limiting or avoiding these foods over the holiday season.
Those candy canes, butterscotch drops, and other festive hard candies may make great stocking stuffers, but they threaten tooth health in two different ways. First, it’s easy to accidentally chip or fracture a tooth when impatiently chewing on a piece of hard candy. Sucking on candy also increases the chances of cavities because you’re exposing your teeth to the sugar for half an hour or longer at a time. Try softer, less sticky candies that don’t hang around in the mouth instead.
Caramel coatings, toffees, and taffy gifts also increase the chances of an extended visit to the dentist after the holidays are over. These sticky candies and treats cling to the teeth and take a long time to dissolve with saliva alone. If you must enjoy a piece of saltwater taffy or a syrupy Christmas pudding, try rinsing your mouth with water immediately after each bite and brushing your teeth as soon as possible when finished. Sugar-free varieties also deposit less sugar in the gaps between teeth, resulting in a reduced cavity risk when you absolutely must have your favorite holiday candies.
Your teeth can handle the heat of a steaming cup of cocoa or tea, but it can still damage your tongue, gum tissue, and the roof of your mouth. Severe damage to your gums can threaten the health of your teeth as well. It only takes a single burn to cause permanent damage, but even mild scalding can add up when it’s a daily occurrence because you’re simply not waiting long enough to enjoy a hot drink. Order your morning coffee at a lower temperature or give that cup of cocoa at least 10 minutes to cool to prevent scalding and mouth burns.
Citrus Drinks and Foods
Since citrus fruits first ripen in the cooler temperatures of autumn, they’re naturally bountiful during the winter holiday season. A twist of lemon adds a zesty sour flavor to your favorite drink, but don’t be tempted to suck on the lemon no matter much you enjoy the taste. All citrus foods are sour thanks to citric acid, and all strong acids can damage your teeth by eroding the protective layer of enamel. Watch out how much lemon juice and sour candies you’re consuming as you celebrate the holidays or you could end up needing sealants.
Finally, all of the various sweet beverages enjoyed around the holidays can increase your chances of cavities and gum disease. From fruity cocktails to mulled wine to alcohol-free eggnog, all the usual drinks are full of sugar, acids, and other mouth-damaging ingredients. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and watch your consumption of energy drinks and sodas to keep your spirits up while you’re celebrating.
Schedule a visit to see your dentist after the holidays end to make sure you haven’t done any damage. If you did enjoy a few too many caramels during a party and damaged a filling, finding any fixing the problem immediately is far easier than waiting until you’re in pain.