The holidays are a time to celebrate, toast to our family and friends, eat festive treats and be merry!  But all those cookies, cocktails, and candy canes wreak havoc on our dental health. 

Here’s some advice when it comes to eating, drinking, and being merry over the holiday season.

1. Eat this, not that

Candy canes are a sweet treat during the holidays, but here’s the thing: Hard candy canes are not just full of sugar — biting down on one can lead to a broken or chipped tooth. One way to get that sweet fix without hurting your teeth is by chewing cinnamon gum. It contains an ingredient called cinnamaldehyde, or xylitol which destroys bacteria that cause cavities. Bonus: Cinnamon gum freshens your breath! But like poinsettias, don’t let your pet get it.

Charcuterie boards are another big crowd-pleaser. Dried fruit like cranberries and apricots might seem like a healthy choice, but they’re sticky, which means they stay on your teeth longer. Instead, reach for the cheese,  fresh fruit, and veggies.  And, as a common sense reminder for some people, don’t use your teeth as a tool to open bottles and packages over the holidays. That can lead to tooth breakage, too, not to mention the germs that might be on them.  I am one of those people!  

2. Drink this, not that

Eggnog mulled wine and fun, festive cocktails during the holiday season can do some damage to your teeth. Dark-colored drinks will stain your teeth. Adding tooth whitening to your stockings will help to brighten up your teeth from these beverages, and they are popular must have this holiday season.

Many people tend to sip on wine over long periods of time, which doesn’t give your mouth a break, exposing your teeth to more sugars over that stretch of time. This can lead to cavities and make stains worse. Liquor combined with fruit juices, syrups, or soda is also bad news for your dental health because it exposes your teeth to more acidity. Acid softens your enamel and increases your tooth sensitivity. Hard alcohol also dries out your mouth, leading to bad breath. If you do opt for a sugary cocktail, sip it through a straw to minimize the alcohol’s contact with your teeth. Sipping water along with these beverages can help balance the pH of your mouth.  Champagne may seem like a wise choice because of its lighter color, but the sugar in champagne, along with the carbonation, can cause gum disease and erode tooth enamel over time.  Surprisingly, beer gets a high score when it comes to your teeth. It has a lower acidity level and higher water content, making it the best choice to help avoid cavities and tooth erosion this holiday season.  


3. Timing Your Eating

You probably haven’t thought about this one before, but timing matters when it comes to eating and drinking. It’s best to eat sweet treats either with your meal or right after. The other foods and drinks you’re consuming at that time can help prevent the sugar from sticking to your teeth.  The length of time it takes to eat a sugary treat can make a big difference in your dental health, so sucking on a candy cane is worse for your teeth than eating a few slices of pumpkin pie. 

The longer you expose your teeth to sugar, the more you feed the bad bacteria in your mouth, leading to plaque buildup and cavities. Drink some water when you’re finished with your treatment, and then, to be safe, wait 30 minutes after you’re done eating before brushing your teeth. This is because you’ve exposed your teeth to acid, softening the top layer of your teeth. A toothbrush will scrub away that top layer, but waiting 30 minutes gives your teeth time to re-harden, so you don’t accidentally do more damage.

4. Don’t Forget About Your Tongue

Your tongue is covered in bacteria. It’s important to finish off your tooth-cleaning routine by brushing your tongue. This helps remove the bacteria and plaque that build up inside your mouth and keeps your breath fresh throughout the day.

Where is your tongue?

Believe it or not, your tongue position makes a huge difference to your mouth and overall health. Keeping your tongue up on the roof of your mouth helps you breathe through your nose, which in turn helps keep your teeth healthy. Mouth breathing dries out your mouth, reduces saliva, and increases your risk of cavities and gingivitis. 

Breathing through your nose and taking good care of your teeth and gums gives you not only a nice smile but also prevents other health complications, such as gum disease. Gum disease, or periodontitis, is linked to serious health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, low birth weight in infants, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is that you can save yourself time, money, and a trip to the dentist or doctor by making a few  changes to your at-home oral care routine:

5. Floss or water flosser

Make sure you’re flossing your teeth with traditional floss picks or water flossers. In order to properly floss your teeth, you need to wrap the floss around one of the two teeth that form the gap you’re flossing in. Hug the tooth with the floss. Slide it up and down the side of each tooth edge several times. This removes more plaque than just popping the floss between the teeth.

You should floss first, then brush your teeth so that you can remove the plaque that flossing loosens. If you can’t find time to floss before you brush, it’s okay to do it another time during the day/night. Just be sure to rinse your mouth with water after you’re finished flossing. This will help remove bacteria from your teeth and mouth.

6. Switch to an Electric Toothbrush

You get roughly 300 strokes per minute with a manual toothbrush and 33,00 with an electric toothbrush.  The vibrating toothbrush will do the cleaning for you; you don’t have to brush back and forth, but you can angle the brush toward the gumline and just slowly move the toothbrush around each section of your mouth; Many electric toothbrushes also have a built-in timer, so you know how long to spend on each section of your mouth. Just make sure you hold the toothbrush very gently against your teeth and gums — pressing too hard can damage and erode your gums. They also feature a pressure sensor to alert you when you’re pressing too hard.

Following these simple at-home tips will keep your mouth healthier than ever, and you’ll avoid the post-surprises when it comes to your dental health.

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