You can always expect one thing during the holiday season: a seemingly bottomless supply of holiday treats and snacks. Whether neighbors are dropping off handmade chocolates or coworkers are bringing cookies into the office, your teeth are exposed to more sugar than usual. So, it’s more important than ever to stay consistent with these dental hygiene tips.
Things to Consider: Holiday Indulgences
You don’t have to avoid holiday treats altogether for the last few weeks of the month. However, it can be hard to say no when you have so many sweet treats and desserts offered to celebrate the holidays.
While it’s fun to relax your everyday eating routines and indulge a bit, it’s wise to be aware of how these desserts affect your health. Not only do sweets change blood sugar levels, but sugar can also cause damage to your teeth.
Since you are planning to enjoy a variety of delicious treats this holiday season, then here are a few essential dental hygiene tips to follow so you can protect your teeth and gums:
Tip #1: Manage the Timing
Be deliberate about the timing when you are eating holiday sweets. Each time you take a bite of dessert or a sip of a sweet drink, it exposes your mouth to the acidity from the sugar and other processed ingredients. These conditions create a lower pH environment where bacteria thrive, which leads to tooth decay.
The truth is that cavities don’t form because of sugar. Instead, the sugar promotes cavity-causing bacteria that can damage tooth enamel, which leads to decay. Consuming sugar throughout the day maintains this harmful environment in your mouth.
Every time you eat something, you expose your teeth to acids. The mouth can manage several moments of acidity each day. But frequent snacking can make it hard for the protective elements to keep up with ongoing acidity.
Limit your snacking frequency. Instead of snacking throughout the day, indulge your sweet tooth when eating meals. Then, take a break from eating to avoid exposing your teeth to sugar too frequently.
Tip #2: Stay Away from Sweets Before Bed
It might seem redundant to talk about two dental hygiene tips in a row referring to the timing of your desserts. But this point deserves mention on its own: avoid sugar and desserts right before bed.
The saliva in your mouth plays a vital role in cleansing the mouth and protecting your teeth. When you go to bed, your mouth tends to be drier than the conditions during the day. The decreased saliva production increases the risk of decay in your mouth – especially when pre-bedtime snacks leave sugar on your teeth.
Stop eating at least 30 minutes before bed to give your mouth time to rebalance after the meal or snack. This practice not only protects your teeth, but it is healthier for overall wellness.
Tip #3: Brush Your Teeth After Eating Sweets
When you are done enjoying your holiday treat, take a moment to brush your teeth if possible. Toothpaste not only removes the acidic elements left behind in your mouth, but the fluoride also strengthens your teeth to prevent cavities.
Also, it’s a good idea to floss your teeth at least once a day. Flossing cleans the hard-to-reach areas where the toothbrush can’t brush.
If you don’t have the option to brush your teeth after a meal or snack, then swish your mouth with plain water. Rinsing is an alternative, but it is not as effective as brushing.
Tip #4: Pick Better Treats
Not all sweet treats are created equal. Certain types of sugary snacks are worse than others. For example, if you are sucking on candy that dissolves slowly, it increases the risk of cavities compared to something you chew and swallow right away.
As you are making a note of these dental hygiene tips, consider the combination of ingredients. For example, some people find that the combination of sweetener plus citric acid is more harmful to their teeth compared to other sweet treats without added acid.
Another option is to choose a sugar alternative to satisfy your sweet tooth without increasing the risk of cavities. One example is xylitol mints or gum. Xylitol is a sweetener that tastes great, but it doesn’t create the same bacteria-friendly conditions when you eat sugar. The bacteria in your mouth can’t feed on xylitol. Keep xylitol gum in your pocket to use as an alternative to holiday desserts.
Tip #5: Invest in High-Quality Dental Hygiene Tools
Prevention is the best strategy to protect your teeth from unnecessary damage and tooth decay. Make sure you use a high-quality toothbrush to clean your teeth thoroughly each day. If you are eating a lot of sweets, it can be helpful to use a powered toothbrush so you can reach the most challenging places in your mouth when brushing.
Good floss is essential as well. If you don’t like using traditional dental floss, try using flossing picks – small plastic tools that hold dental floss at the end. These picks make it easier to reach the back teeth, especially for people with small mouths.
Tip #6: Don’t Skip Your Dental Checkup
Is it time for a checkup with the dentist? Even though it’s a busy time of year, don’t miss the opportunity for a cleaning and examination. Early diagnosis and preventive treatments are vital in helping you maintain a healthy smile for life.
Plus, the end of the year is a great time to get into the dentist so you can maximize your dental benefits before they expire. Our team is happy to provide the dental services you need, and we can also discuss more information about dental hygiene tips so you can enjoy healthy teeth throughout the year.
Need More Dental Hygiene Tips?
For more information about preventing tooth decay and protecting your beautiful smile, talk to our team at Cosmetic & Family Dentistry of Las Colinas. Call to schedule an examination and learn more about available dental services for the whole family.