Whether you’re ready for it or not, the holiday season is coming up very soon. While your mouth may be watering already at the thought of turkey, egg nog, and gingerbread cookies, your teeth are bracing for the impact that all those sticky, sugary holiday foods will have on them. Fortunately, not all holiday snacks are dangerous to your dental health. But do you know which ones are good for your teeth and which aren’t?
With 32% of people saying they’re concerned for the way their teeth look, you’ll want to be mindful of what goes into your mouth this holiday season. Let’s discover which traditional holiday foods are bad for your teeth and which ones can actually help you keep them healthy.
Naughty: Egg Nog
Delicious though it may be, egg nog is really high in sugar, which makes it a bad choice for your teeth. If you just have to have some this holiday season, try making your own with less sugar and little-to-no alcohol with one of the great recipes you can find online. It may not taste exactly like what you get at the store, but your teeth will thank you.
Turkey meat is non-fermentable and as a result, it won’t stimulate any cavity-causing responses in your mouth. This protein-rich bird also contains phosphorus, which helps you produce strong, healthy teeth along with calcium. However, drowning your turkey in sugar-rich cranberry sauce can diminish any benefits you’re getting, so use that sparingly.
Naughty: Candy Canes
When it comes to maintaining healthy teeth, candy canes are a lose-lose holiday treat. If you crunch down on them, pieces of the candy can get lodged in your teeth, causing decay and possible fractures. On the other hand, if you just suck on them, you’re exposing your teeth to the sugar for that much longer, which can considerably increase your risk of developing cavities.
A survey conducted by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry found that 99.7% of all adults, practically all of them, believe that a healthy smile is important to enjoying a healthy social life. If you’re a part of this vast majority, you may want to avoid candy canes altogether this Christmas.
This may come as a surprise, but cheese is actually great for your teeth. This is because it’s a naturally antibacterial food and it has lower pH levels that help lower the acidity in your mouth. This doesn’t mean that a cheese wheel would make an adequate toothbrush, but it does mean that you don’t have to feel any guilt about consuming this popular delicacy. When that cheese plate gets passed around, don’t be afraid to grab a handful.
When it comes to chocolate, there’s both good news and bad news. The bad news is that highly-common milk chocolate, which is fairly light in color, is notorious for having a lot of sugar in it. The bacteria in your mouth digest this sugar as you’re eating it and this process produces acid that can dissolve the enamel on your teeth, leading to cavities later on. But this is the good news: pure dark chocolate is actually okay for your teeth because it has less sugar in it. The darker the chocolate, the better it is for your teeth. Just be wary of the light, sugary stuff.
Nice: Mixed Nuts
Nuts are like little bombs of healthy nutrients, and your teeth like them as much as your body. They contain such nutrients as iron and magnesium, two incredibly important minerals, and they also supply a considerable amount of calcium, which contributes to strong teeth. Eating nuts also stimulates saliva production, which helps keep harmful bacteria at bay. Basically, eat as much of these as you like!
Naughty: Dried Fruit
Even though dried fruit is marketed as being nutritious, it’s very high in concentrated sugar. This isn’t because sugar is injected into dried fruit, though. Sugar is naturally-occurring in most fruits. However, the sugar content inside becomes highly-concentrated when you extract water from the fruit in the drying process. As a result, dried fruit has seven times more sugar content than fresh fruit does. Yikes!
If you and your family choose to enjoy dried fruit as a holiday treat, make sure you drink lots of water to wash it away from your teeth. A 2012 study by the Journal of Pediatric Dentistry discovered that more than 65% of parents using bottled water didn’t know how much fluoride it contained. Fluoride is considered by the dental industry to be important for your teeth, so be sure to check the fluoride levels in the water you drink.
Fortunately, veggies are one of the holidays’ redeeming qualities when it comes to healthy eating. Not only are most vegetables high in vitamins and minerals, but the fibrous ones (like carrots and celery) work like toothbrushes as you eat them. Their fibrous texture help to remove plaque, which would inevitably turn into tartar within 72 hours, as you chow down on them. Even though they’re probably not the highlight of anyone’s holiday, make sure your Christmas and Thanksgiving meals have plenty of deliciously-prepared vegetables available.
Naughty: Ice Cubes
Some 90% of U.S. households regularly indulge in a sweet, frozen treat, but we often neglect to talk about ice cubes. Yes, ice cubes. This “food” can be especially hard on your teeth during the wintertime. Because ice is so hard, eating it can cause the enamel on your teeth to chip off, in some cases leading to fractured or even broken teeth. It’s an especially bad practice for those with braces or recent dental work. And when you pair eating ice with the rapidly decreasing winter temperatures, which cause your teeth to contract, you end up with a recipe for trouble. If you enjoy eating ice, this may be a habit you should rethink this winter.
Nice: Sugar-Free Gum
When you’re finished with a big holiday meal, top it off with a piece of sugar-free chewing gum. This will increase saliva production, helping to neutralize and wash away acids produced by bacteria in your mouth. Besides this, it gives you minty-fresh breath, which is especially appreciated during crowded get-togethers.
Now you know what foods to avoid and which ones to pay special attention to throughout this holiday season. As a rule of thumb, remember that anything good for your body is good for your teeth, and vice versa. With that in mind, you can mindfully snack your way through the next couple of months. Happy holiday feasting!