The holidays are finally upon us! Time to cozy up with a hot drink, gather around a food-filled table, package up your favorite cookies for neighbors and friends, and … visit the endodontist? If a trip to your endodontist isn’t on your holiday calendar, you might rethink some of your favorite holiday treats.
With the season lasting six weeks or more, overindulging in a few choice holiday delights can build up to cavities, staining, or cracked teeth if you aren’t careful. Below we outline the holiday treats to be wary of and why, as well as ways to enjoy the festivities while protecting your oral health.
Sugar’s Effect On Your Teeth
Ever noticed a filmy sensation in your mouth when you eat too much sugar? That’s plaque. Plaque forms when bacteria build up on your teeth. It usually gets washed away by saliva, but an environment with too much sugar might create more plaque than your mouth can handle. The bacteria in plaque turns into acid and eats away at tooth enamel, allowing for infections to take root.
Bad Holiday Foods for Your Teeth
What you’re really trying to avoid this holiday season isn’t just sugar. It’s the combination of sugar and acid, as well as hard foods that are normally frowned upon for cracking teeth. Here are some of the worst stand-out foods:
1. Peppermint Sticks
Candy canes, peppermints, and peppermint sticks are a common symbol of the holidays but are entirely sugar. Not only that, it’s crystallized, slow-melting sugar. Biting into one might crack a filling or weak tooth , but sucking one slowly saturates your mouth with sugar-loving bacteria that can lead to tooth decay. We called out peppermints specifically because they are so common from Thanksgiving through the New Year, but all hard candies sit at the top of the no-go list for holiday treats.
2. Toffee and Brittle
These foods are hard, chewy, and easily get stuck in your teeth. When you bite into these hard confections, you sometimes risk chipping a tooth or dislodging a filling, especially if they contain nuts. When the toffee then sticks between teeth or in tooth crevices, you end up with a perfect nest for bacteria, filled with its favorite food, sugar.
3. Pecan Pie
This is a delicious holiday treat but because pecan pie is sticky, sugary, and hard, it’s one of the worst holiday foods for your teeth. Pecan pie traditionally contains corn syrup, which is extremely sugary and sticky. As you eat it, sticky sugars cling long enough to fuel destructive bacteria. Plus, the pecans can be hard enough to weaken or even fracture your enamel as you chew on them.
You may not be aware of just how much sugar eggnog contains. One serving usually has about 20 grams, which is almost the daily amount recommended by the American Heart Association. Unless you want to start the new year off with a mouthful of cavities, take it easy on this sugary drink!
5. Dried Fruit
The sticky texture and sugar content of many different types of dried fruit make this seemingly healthy snack problematic for your teeth. Unlike fresh fruit where the sugar is quickly washed away with saliva, dried fruit can get stuck in your teeth, where it’ll keep the bacteria in your mouth fed for a prolonged amount of time. If you don’t rinse your mouth and brush thoroughly after eating dried fruit, then it’s a snack to avoid.
Protect Your Oral Health While Enjoying Holiday Treats
We understand the desire to enjoy these one-a-year treats, especially if they’re tradition for your family. Thankfully, there are ways to enjoy even the worst holiday treats for your teeth while minimizing the risks to oral health.
First, treat your treats as dessert instead of snacks so that you’ll eat less and prevent acid build-up. Be sure to also drink plenty of water to wash away sugary build-up on your teeth. The more hydrated you are, the more saliva you’ll have which will also fight off bacteria. And of course, be sure to brush your teeth thoroughly during the holidays. The more aware you are of these risks, the more likely you will be to avoid overconsumption of these treats and keep care of your pearly whites.
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Our job at Endodontic Specialists is to help you care for your teeth, especially during this tricky season. We are always here to help so be sure to give our office a call if you have any urgent dentistry needs or are looking to schedule an appointment!