Worst Holiday Foods for Your Smile
View the full segment on WJXT here.
For many, the holidays aren’t complete without indulgent holiday favorites like candy canes, caramel, and eggnog. But these sugary sweets can wreak havoc on your teeth if not consumed in moderation. According to Colgate, sugar is the main culprit to watch for during the holiday season, but it’s important to beware of sticky and starchy foods as well.
Dr. Cary Berdy joined the WJXT team to share the top holiday foods that make the “naughty” list each year, plus provide insight on how those treats can be damaging and how you can keep your dental health a priority all season long.
Top Foods to Avoid this Season
With the holidays just around the corner, many families are preparing to celebrate with homemade desserts and other sweet treats, but there are a few common items to keep an eye out for – plus a few that may surprise you.
- Sticky candies – including dried fruits
- This one may seem obvious, but many of us are more likely to indulge in more candy than usual over the holidays. These soft textures of these treats are tough on teeth because as you chew them, they get stuck both on the surface and in the grooves of your teeth – which can then produce a buildup of cavity-causing bacteria.
- This savory snack is notorious for cracking teeth. At Berdy Dental Group, we’ve treated many patients over the years who come in after biting on a half-popped kernel or piece of husk, then end up with a damaged tooth or painful spot on their gums. Chocolate or caramel-coated variations of this snack can lead to the perfect storm of problems for your teeth.
- Sweet drinks – including coffee, hot chocolate and apple cider
- Each of these beverages are something you slowly sip and enjoy, which can actually lead to bigger problems for your teeth. Although these drinks may be festive, they are high in sugar and the repetition of slow sips causes that sugar to longer in your mouth longer – which can then lead to cavities.
As an alternative, here are a few salty and sweet treats that will be easier on your teeth this holiday season:
- Dark chocolate
- This sweet treat is low in sugar and high in antioxidants.
- Mixed nuts
- This salty snack is a great option – especially the easier to chew varieties like pecans and cashews
- Soft, non-sticky desserts
- Treats like banana bread are far gentler on your teeth than others.
- Fresh vegetables and cheese
- Both are filling and nutritious – plus the dairy in cheese can even strengthen your teeth!
Remember, any overly sweet or chewy foods aren’t great for your teeth, so if you do indulge, moderation is key.
How Sweet Treats Eat Away at Tooth Enamel
While it’s no secret that sugary food and drinks are bad for your teeth, it’s crucial to understand why. As the bacteria in your mouth starts to break down sugar, it combines with saliva and creates plaque. When left on your teeth for too long, plaque can actually dissolve the enamel – which is the ultimate cause of cavities.
Although tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, it still can be worn down if not properly cared for and maintained. And, while sweets are a common culprit of worn enamel, they are not the only factor.
Acidic foods and drinks have a similar effect. Rather than leading to plaque buildup, foods high in acid can actually weaken the layer of enamel through a process known as tooth erosion. This then leads to the potential for cavities, infection and weakened gum lines.
It’s important to maintain a consistent oral health routine even throughout the holidays because enamel is not a living tissue, meaning it cannot naturally regenerate. Once it wears, it will not grow back, so keeping your teeth clean will help them stay strong and healthy, too.
Tips for Being Proactive About Dental Health this Holiday Season
Your best line of defense against the potentially harmful effects of sweet treats is to – very simply – brush your teeth. If you are at a socially-distanced gathering or other engagement where you cannot quickly brush your teeth after enjoying an indulgent snack, at least try to drink a glass of water and lightly swish before you swallow. This will help rinse away any remnants of the snacks on your teeth and dislodge any sticky pieces that stuck around.
You can also try incorporating a fluoride mouthwash into your routine. This will help clean even the hardest to reach areas to deter cavities from forming. Unfortunately, brushing alone doesn’t cover it when it comes to clean teeth, so a good mouthwash and consistent flossing schedule will make all the difference for your oral health. Make your fluoride mouthwash the last step of your nightly oral care routine so it coats your teeth before bed.
As you prepare to celebrate this season, keep in mind that you can still enjoy holiday treats in moderation – just be sure to keep up with your dental care regimen and never go to sleep without brushing your teeth.
At Berdy Dental Group, we want to ensure our patients have a healthy smile year-round, so we encourage visits at least once every six months. Especially throughout the holidays, if you notice a tooth ache or any other pain, don’t ignore it. Keep your dental health a priority so you can have sparkling teeth in the new year!