With holiday parties on everyone’s schedule at this time of year, we all tend to be focused on how to keep calories at bay as we fill our plates. However, we really should keep our dental health in mind at the same time. Sugary and acidic foods and drinks can wreak havoc on your teeth, but some are worse than others. Read on to learn about the ones you should steer away from the most, and what actions you should take after consuming tooth-damaging foods to ensure you have a healthy smile that endures. At Berdy Dental Group, we work hard to help our patients adopt habits that mitigate the likelihood of developing harmful cavities or gum disease.
TOP FOODS THAT YOU SHOULD AVOID THIS HOLIDAY SEASON AND WHY
- It’s no secret that sugary food and drinks are bad for your teeth, but it’s important to understand why. As the bacteria in your mouth starts to break down sugar, it causes demineralization (commonly known as decay) of the enamel. This contributes to cavities and gum disease in the long-term.
- Acidic foods have a similar effect, as they also wear away the enamel that protects your teeth. This changes the appearance of your teeth and opens the door for that same bacteria to start causing problems.
- As we enter the holiday season, the temptation to snack and enjoy these types of foods is more present. At Berdy Dental Group, we naturally recommend eating these types of foods sparingly for the sake of your dental health, but we wanted to make you aware that some offenders are far worse than others.
WORST FOODS & DRINKS FOR YOUR TEETH
- Sticky candies. These are really tough on teeth because as you eat them, they stick all over the surface of your teeth and won’t budge. Dried fruits, like holiday favorites cranberries and raisins, actually have the same effect – they will stay stuck in the grooves of your teeth. The longer the contact the sweets have with the teeth, the more acid gets produced by bacteria, leading to cavities.
- Canned fruit. While it may seem like a delicious side dish at your holiday dinner table, canned fruit can besurprisingly unhealthy. Most are packaged in syrup and coated in sugar, making them practically the same as a piece of candy.
- Popcorn. This snack is notorious for cracking teeth. At Berdy Dental Group, we’ve treated more than a few patients who come in after biting down too hard on a half-popped kernel. Unfortunately, the pieces of husk cause a big problem too, as they can get lodged in your gums and cause pain. Sugary, caramel-coated variations of the snack can cause a perfect storm of problems for your teeth.
- Sweet coffee drinks. Coffee is something you sip on and enjoy slowly, which actually creates a bigger problem for your teeth. Constant exposure to milk and sugar over the course of an hour or more make it difficult for the saliva to combat the sugars and acids produced by the bacteria in our mouths. Your saliva helps protect teeth from decay, but it can’t do its job as you continually sip from your coffee cup.
- Seltzer. While this low-calorie drink is especially trendy right now, it is unfortunately not great for your teeth. In fact, a study from the University of Birmingham found that exposure to carbonated waters, like seltzer, can be as damaging for teeth enamel as orange juice – so you may want to let up on the bubbly beverages during your holiday celebrations.
- Sodas and Sweet Tea. These items are certainly not limited to the holidays. Because they tend to be consumed regularly, they are perhaps among the biggest threats to your oral health. Did you know a can of coke has about 12 teaspoons of sugar? Sweet tea is not much better. Stick to water or unsweetened tea as much as you can.
AVOIDING TOOTH DECAY – EVEN WHEN YOU BREAK THE RULES
- The best defense against the potentially harmful effects of these snacks is to brush your teeth. Now, obviously, when you’re at a holiday party, there’s a very slim chance that you’ll be able to brush your teeth immediately afterwards. Try to drink a glass of water after consuming anything sugary to help rinse away remnants of the snacks on your teeth and dislodge any sticky bits.
- Remember that most foods are okay in moderation – just be sure to remain very consistent in your dental care routine. I tell my patients to brush twice per day and floss once per day, and never go to bed without brushing your teeth. It’s also important to note that the way you brush and floss is just as important as the frequency.
OTHER DENTAL HEALTH TIPS TO HELP FEND OFF CAVITIES
- Try incorporating a fluoride mouthwash into your routine to help deter cavities from forming. You may also consider using an at-home water flosser to clean deeply between your teeth and gums.
- You should also make sure that you are staying hydrated – proper water intake is incredibly important for a healthy mouth. Overall, I urge viewers to talk to their dentist or hygienist about the specific hygiene habits you have and how you can improve them for optimal oral health.
- At Berdy Dental Group, we encourage all of our patients to visit us at least once every six months. With regular dental cleanings and exams, we can catch any problems – sometimes before you even notice any symptoms.