Thanksgiving is upon us and Christmas is just around the corner! With the holiday season in full swing, the one question on our mind has been: “What does this mean for our teeth?”
There is no denying it: the holidays do contribute to some bad dental days, starting from October 31st and carried on through the New Year, but are the holidays really the worst time for our teeth?
While this hasn’t been largely proclaimed, based on my research I’m going to have to declare: Yes, it is the worst time for your teeth.
Why Are the Holidays So Bad for Your Dental Health?
There are a few factors that contribute to tooth decay around the holidays:
Factor #1: Constant snacking throughout the day
Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays often spent with loved ones–catching up, playing games and eating food, lots and lots of food!
Snacking endlessly on Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers may be a good way to get rid of all that food, but this method of eating is actually bad for your dental health. Eating without a significant break doesn’t give saliva a chance to clean the bacteria off your teeth.
Factor #2: Massive amounts of sugary sweets
Resisting the urge to take part in holiday sugary sweets is difficult to do, but limiting how many sugary sweets you have is important for your dental health and your overall health.
Halloween… Thanksgiving… Christmas. These are each fun holidays to celebrate, but ones that are overwhelmingly full of desserts and sugary foods. What makes Christmas even worse out of the three is that it is a monthly celebration. The baked goods, Christmas treats and Christmas parties are about to begin, with all manner of tasty snacks.
So why is sugar so bad? When you eat sugar, sugar turns into acid, which causes teeth to decay.
You don’t have to skip all of those Thanksgiving and Christmas goodies though. There are ways to protect your teeth this holiday season while also enjoying a few tasty morsels. We’ll talk more about that later in this post.
Factor #3: Traveling and getting out of the normal routine
Finally, traveling for the holidays can get your normal hygiene routine out of whack. Forget your toothbrush? Enjoying those late-night games of Bananagrams or Spades? While the games might be fun, those late nights usually contribute to falling into bed without a second thought about brushing your teeth. Just stating the facts (We’ve all been there).
There’s a lot that going out of town can do to mess up your normal routine. The important thing to do is not to let it. Have a toothbrush or floss with you, rinse out your mouth after meals, prioritize brushing your teeth before starting the games with the family, etc. There is a lot you can do to prevent poor dental health this season.
Tips for Enjoying the Holiday and Protecting Your Teeth
Despite the holidays being bad for your dental health, there are many ways to still enjoy the holiday while protecting your teeth. We’ve mentioned some already, but here are a few more.
- Drink plenty of water while you eat – If you’re eating throughout the day, you aren’t giving your saliva long enough to build up and clean your teeth. Drink plenty of water so the food you’re eating doesn’t stick and stay on your teeth for long.
- Brush, rinse and floss if you can- Many of you may be traveling this Thanksgiving or Christmas. While you may be out of town, you can still bring a toothbrush, mouthwash and floss with you to take care of your teeth between meals. At the very least, bring some floss with you so you can clean in between your teeth after snacking.
- Stay away from teeth-staining foods – Think of our autumn and Christmas colors. Those colors came from many of the foods we consume during the season, while others were made to match the seasonal colors. These colors are bright and vibrant and ready to stain those pearly whites.
- Consume healthy holiday foods, like:
- Mashed potatoes
- Peppermint-flavored beverages (particularly tea)
- Gingerbread cookies (less sugar than other baked goods)
- Dark chocolate (stick to high cacao content chocolate (70-85%)
- Avoid unhealthy holiday foods. This includes:
- Candy canes
- Hard candies
- Sour candies
- Sticky and chewy candies
- Sugary Baked Goods
- Carbonated and Sugary Drinks
- White wine
- Only consume foods at mealtimes instead of snacking throughout the day – Ideally, you should resist the temptation to snack throughout the day. Consuming holiday foods only at mealtimes is better for your oral health.
- Limit the number of times you eat sugar throughout the day – Sugar is in a lot more than desserts. Read product labels, research sugary foods and choose which sugary foods you want to indulge in that day. For instance, do you want that piece of pecan pie or would you rather have the glass of eggnog? Both contain a lot of sugar. Limiting your intake of sugar means making some tough choices (unless you don’t like eggnog, in which case you may have to make another food/beverage choice). TIP: If you are having a hard time limiting your sugar intake. Save the treat that will keep for another day.
- Schedule a dentist appointment – The holiday season is actually a good time to schedule a routine dental checkup if you haven’t had one in a while. Keep those pearly whites clean and healthy before Christmas (and after). TIP: Find out holiday hours of your dentist’s office so you aren’t left in a bind. And remember what to do should a dental emergency arise while you are gone on holiday.
Above all, enjoy the time with your friends and family this holiday season! What’s your favorite holiday activity? Tell us in the comment section below.