As the holiday season gets underway, it’s not uncommon for some people to do a little extra grazing on treats, including cookies, candies, alcohol and snack nuts. When this happens, their regular oral health and hygiene routine might not be enough to fight off decay — and cavities, toothaches, chipped teeth, and gum disease are not presents anyone asks for, regardless of which of the holidays they choose to celebrate.
STICK TO YOUR ORAL HEALTH AND HYGIENE ROUTINES
The holiday season is a busy time, and it often seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. While it is tempting to cut corners, you shouldn’t make your teeth pay the price any more than necessary. It takes about two minutes to brush your teeth effectively, and perhaps a minute of two more to floss. To help keep your spirits up, hum or play your favorite holiday song in your head as you brush. At minimum, this should be done twice a day, but with extra treats more likely, it’s a good idea to pack your toothbrush, or just keep one in your bag or in your desk at work. In a pinch, chewing on sugarless gum can help clean teeth as well, but shouldn’t serve as a replacement from proper dental care.
BALANCE OUT YOUR SWEETS AND ACIDS
With so many treats in front of you, it can be hard to resist. However, when you are given the choice, having fresh crunchy vegetables on hand, such as carrots can help to offset the acid found in sugar and give your teeth a natural cleaning. Set a good example by providing healthy alternatives to your own family and when making contributions to holiday potlucks you attend with family, friends and coworkers. Drinking water, especially fluoride fortified water whenever you’ve had any of these snacks, and frequently throughout the day can also be helpful. Not only does it wash away sugary acids that cause cavities, but it can prevent extra acid from eroding your enamel. Drinking water also can decrease your appetite, making treats easier to resist. When enjoying colorful foods, such as berries, juices, and wine, pairing with a but of cheese also helps to balance pH levels in your mouth and gives your mouth an extra boost of calcium.
WATCH THE SODA
Besides alcoholic beverage, soda is also frequently served at holiday gatherings and is also consumed when stopping for fast food or attending movies over the holiday season. Whenever possible, it is best to avoid sodas and opt for sparkling waters instead. If the temptation is too great, however, it is better to drink the beverage with a straw, so that more of the sugars are not in direct contact with your teeth. As soon as possible, take time to brush or rinse out your mouth with a little plain water.
DON’T WORK YOUR TEETH TOO HARD
Even without a bite of sugar, dental health can be at risk during the holidays if you give your teeth too much to handle. If you are wrapping presents, or wrestling with difficult packaging, be sure to keep a scissors close by to remove any knobs or tags. Trying to open things with your teeth can cause damage, and lead to even more frustration for you. Hard candy is another culprit that can be hard on teeth. If you enjoy candy canes, suck on them for a short period of time, and then brush your teeth or drink water. Avoid biting hard candy, as this can damage them in both the short and long run.
TAKE CARE OF THE KIDS
Besides taking care of your own oral health and hygiene, keeping up good practices becomes especially important if you have kids. Children especially are often less than enthused about interrupting their holiday fun to go brush their teeth. Setting a good example will make it a bit easier to enforce rules about oral hygiene. Whenever possible, take the focus off the food — or at least off the sweets. Brag about the turkey or ham that is being served, rather than the pumpkin pie. If necessary make deals with your kids to eat vegetables or drink water in proportion to their treat consumption. Take time to share hopes and wishes for the season and the upcoming year, and spend time together playing board and card games, watching your favorite holiday movies, or going for walks in the neighborhood to enjoy the colorful lights, fresh air, and one another.