The wonder of the holidays brings plenty of joy throughout the season. Unfortunately, it also brings a lot of Christmas sweets and treats that can harm your teeth. With the Christmas season approaching, it is a good idea to have a plan in place to help counteract the ill effects all those sweets can have on your dental health.
Here are our tips to help you protect your teeth so you can enjoy the sweets and treats of the holidays guilt-free.
How Teeth Are Harmed By Sweets
All that sugar over the holidays not only packs on pounds but also increases the risk for tooth decay. The effect of sweets on teeth is mainly that sugar increases the number of unhealthy bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria stick to your teeth forming a biofilm, which most people know as plaque. As plaque builds, the bacteria, which happens to love sugar as much as you do, turns it into acids. The acids are what cause tooth decay because they eat away at the hard protective enamel on your teeth. This is how cavities are formed.
Christmas Sweets And Treats That Can Harm Your Teeth
The holiday’s worst offenders tend to be anything hard, sticky or chewy. Here are the sweets and treats to avoid over the holidays:
Candy canes are the iconic candy of the holidays. While some are used for harmless décor, the real deal candy cane packs a dangerous combo of all things bad for your teeth: 75% sugar and 25% corn syrup. Because they are hard, we tend to keep them in our mouths longer, allowing all that sweetness to do more harm. If you think you can chew them instead, you are at risk of damaging your teeth as you bite down. They are hard to resist but are best placed on your naughty list this holiday season. Hang them on your tree instead.
All those lovely caramels, toffees, chocolate-covered salted caramels, fudges and more, stick to your teeth due to their chewy consistency. That means they stick around in your mouth longer, continuing to feed bacteria which happily produces more acids that damage your enamel.
This is another holiday no-no, combining the sweet chewiness of sugary caramel with the hidden hardness of unexpected unpopped kernels. We already know what the caramel can do, but when the sticky caramel creates those clumps of popcorn, it’s hard to spot hidden kernels that may not have popped. That can cause severe damage when you bite down on them unexpectedly. The last thing you want is a dental emergency when everything is shut down for the holidays. Maybe stick to stringing your popcorn with cranberries to decorate your tree and leave the caramel corn alone.
We’ve mentioned the woes of candy canes thanks to their sugar, but also their hardness. Any other hard candy, including that pretty ribbon candy that is so festive and colourful, is the perfect way to break or chip a tooth. Also, as mentioned, if you choose to suck on it allowing the sweetness to dissolve in your mouth, you’re just generating the perfect environment for bacteria (the bad kind!). While we all like to welcome company during the holidays, bacteria should not be included on your guest list.
Nostalgic Holiday Beverages
From that hot mug of cocoa to a glass of eggnog, and from rich creamy cocktails to hot mulled apple cider, festive drinks are packed with sugar. While it is hard to resist, keeping the sweeter drinks off the menu is always best. Also, designated drivers might not realize how many more sweet drinks they are consuming over the course of the evening. Stick to festive sparkling water instead.
Fruit Cake and Dried Fruit
Although most of us claim to hate fruit cake, we often still enjoy a slice or two since it’s everywhere. However, all that sticky dried fruit is just as bad for your teeth as caramels!
Some Healthy Holiday Alternatives
We all deserve a little indulgence over the holidays. However, you can reduce the effects of sugar by choosing some of these healthier alternatives instead:
There are tons of sugar-free confections available today. Choose them instead so you can indulge in your favourite treats but avoid all that damage from sugar.
Have Your Sweets And Treats Only For Dessert
Have your sweets only for dessert instead of munching on them mindlessly while watching your favourite holiday specials, decorating the tree, after tobogganing, when out holiday shopping — you get the idea. When you enjoy your sweets at the end of the meal, not only do you eat less, but you also reap the benefits of the extra saliva your mouth produced during dinner. This allows the sugars to wash away faster.
Go For the Crudité
Many festive appetizers and spreads offer healthier snacks like veggies and dip, or slices of fresh fruit. These are always the healthier choice, offering plenty of satisfying crunch and flavour, and a fruity sweetness that won’t be bad for your teeth.
Those holiday cheese platters are hard to resist and help fill you up while providing healthy calcium and protein. You can then enjoy a little sweet treat afterwards as cheese helps balance pH levels in your mouth, reducing acid and providing more saliva.
These alternatives are satisfying, healthy, and almost just as festive. And your mouth will thank you!
What If I Can’t Resist?
Of course, this is going to happen to most of us. With so many treats calling your name, and with the excuse it’s “just once a year”, you are bound to go on a bit of a sweets bender at least once. When you do, be sure to drink plenty of water to help remove the sugars and acid from your mouth.
Also, you might be tempted to go straight to bed without brushing your teeth when you’ve overindulged, but always brush and floss before bedtime to keep up your fight against tooth decay. Remember, never brush immediately after enjoying food, as it can force the sugar and acids further into your enamel. Instead, stick to rinsing with water right after indulging, and then brush thoroughly as usual at bedtime. In hand with your regular dental cleanings, you can maintain good oral health throughout the holidays.