During the holidays, many people worry about ruining their diets. But few people worry about how all those festive treats can impact their teeth. Is it possible to enjoy all those goodies without compromising your dental health? What are some of the holiday foods that will wreck your teeth?
Cavity Causing Cookies
It’s the time of year when we pull out grandma’s old recipe cards and start baking. Displayed on dessert tables, swapped at cookie exchange parties, and gifted to friends, cookies are everywhere this time of year. Those delicious morsels, cut into holiday shapes and slathered with icing—they’re called “sugar” cookies for a reason! Sugar itself doesn’t cause cavities. But it can contribute to tooth decay when it’s allowed to linger on tooth enamel.
Candy Cane Caution
Like cookies, candy is hard to avoid during the holidays. We might indulge in all types of candy more than usual, but there is one culprit that can really wreck your teeth: the candy cane. Don’t let its minty-fresh taste fool you. When it comes to what it can do to your teeth, it is as far from toothpaste as it can get! Candy canes are almost pure sugar. Not only that, they take a long time to eat, so that sugar stays in your mouth for a long time. The longer decay-causing substances stay on your teeth, the more likely they are to cause cavities.
Other types of candy can also wreck your teeth, not only due to their sugar content but in other ways too. Things like dried fruits and caramels can stick to your teeth, giving their acids a chance to penetrate the enamel. Biting down on toffee and peanut brittle can loosen fillings, damage veneers, and even crack or chip teeth. People with braces are supposed to stay away from these foods. Cheating during the holidays is a bad idea.
Carbs Can Wreck Your Teeth Too
It may surprise you to know that it’s not just sweets that can wreck your teeth during the holidays. Some things on the dinner table can be just as bad. Carbohydrates, sometimes called starches, are in many of the traditional offerings during the season. Some might argue that a holiday table without stuffing, dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, or potato latkes isn’t really a holiday table at all!
The problem with these starchy foods is in how they are digested. Carbs break down into sugars and promote the growth of bacteria in the mouth. Loading up on carbs may not just hurt your waistline, it can harm your dental health too.
Be Careful of Cups, Carbonation, and Cubes
Things that can wreck your teeth during the holidays are not limited to food. Traditional drinks like apple cider and eggnog are loaded with sugar. These beverages are also sometimes spiked with alcohol. Alcohol dries out the mouth and hinders the production of saliva. Saliva plays an important role in reducing plaque and preventing cavities. With its sugar and alcohol, a glass of rum-laced eggnog can be a recipe for cavities.
Another thing to be aware of is carbonation. Even if a fizzy drink is sugar-free, the acids it contains can cause dental decay.
Many beverages have a lot of sugar but can also wreak havoc with the color of your teeth. Red wine, cranberry juice, and coffee can stain the enamel. Teeth whitening or veneers may be in the future for those who overdo it.
Chewing ice cubes in your drink is a no-no for a different reason. Like hard candy, chomping down on them can ruin dental work and damage teeth. This goes for non-food or beverage related things too. Never use your teeth as a tool. Tearing tape, cracking nuts, or opening packages with your teeth are never a good idea.
Don’t Wait Until New Years to Keep this Resolution
One of the biggest dangers to your teeth during the holidays isn’t the food or drink. Instead, it’s ignoring your usual dental routine. This is the time of year when you are more apt to eat between meals, stay up later than usual at parties, or travel away from home. It can be tempting to slack off on important habits.
No one wants to skip all the fun that the holiday season brings. Go ahead and indulge a bit and enjoy! But be aware of how holiday foods
that can wreck your teeth and resolve to brush and floss regularly. Keeping up with your dental hygiene habits is the best holiday gift you can give your teeth.