WEST ALLIS, Wis. – Holiday feasting and fun not only does a number on your waistline, but it can also take a toll on your teeth. This holiday season, get in the giving spirit and give your oral health the attention it deserves.
“No matter the time of year – your oral health should always be a priority,” says WDA President Dr. Paula Crum, a periodontist in Green Bay. “With all the festivities and indulgences that come with the holidays, it can be easy to get carried away and neglect your teeth. Many don’t take into consideration all the extra sugary foods and drinks they’re consuming. Brushing and flossing regularly, even after meals, and setting snacking limitations for yourself can go a long way toward improving your overall health and carrying a healthy smile into the New Year.”
The WDA offers these tips for keeping your mouth and teeth healthy this holiday season:
- Keep your routine. The holiday season is filled with plenty of hustle and bustle that can easily throw you off your oral health care routine. It’s also a time for sweet treats and starchy foods – which can lead to plaque buildup and tooth decay – so it is important to brush for two minutes at least twice a day, and floss once each day. If you’re traveling and want to keep good habits on the go, pack a toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste to use after meals. If brushing isn’t an option, chewing sugar-free gum is a great alternative that helps to clean debris from your teeth.
- Limit alcohol intake. There are a number of ways that alcohol can damage your teeth, so it’s important to choose what and how much you consume in your spirit-filled celebrations. Sugar-heavy beverages, like some wines, fuel harmful bacteria in your mouth and can be a major risk factor in tooth decay. Dehydration, a common side effect of alcohol consumption, can produce the same damaging outcome by decreasing saliva flow and allowing bacteria to cling to enamel. If enjoying a few drinks in your festivities, alternate your alcohol with a glass of water to keep your mouth rinsed and hydrated.
- Never use your teeth as a tool. When it comes to all the packages to open, bottles to uncork and nuts to crack, use the right tools for the job – and your teeth aren’t one of them. Over time, using your teeth for these tasks can weaken your enamel and fragile tooth edges, which can lead to cracks and breaks – a painful and expensive outcome that can easily be avoided.
- Snack smart. Hard candies and cookies are just some of the sticky and starchy treats you’re sure to encounter each year. It’s important to avoid overdoing these kinds of snacks as they tend to stay on teeth longer than most other foods. While most things are fine in moderation, it helps to eat these foods during or shortly after a meal when saliva production is high and helps wash food particles away. Holidays or not, it’s always a great time to start thinking about healthier habits. Try implementing healthy options – like cheese, fruits and vegetables – into your snacking. You’ll be doing a service for your teethand the rest of your body, as well.
- Don’t delay treatment. If you’re scheduled for an appointment during the holidays, honor it and don’t wait to make your oral health your New Year’s resolution. It’s better to catch and fix problems now rather than potentially allow them to worsen by postponing treatment. If you’re overdue for a cleaning or need work done, don’t use the busyness of the holidays as an excuse – call your dentist today to schedule your next visit. If traveling and in need of emergency care, don’t hesitate to contact a local dental office.
It’s important to be proactive about your oral health all year-round, and not just during the holidays. Practicing good dental care is important not only for maintaining a healthy mouth, but for your overall wellness and quality of life, too. Regular visits to your dental health professional and keeping good habits can help you achieve this.
For more information about your oral health, visit the American Dental Association’s public awareness website at www.MouthHealthy.org.