The holiday season is upon us, bringing joy, warmth, and a cornucopia of delicious snacks. As we indulge in festive feasts and sweet treats, it’s essential to be mindful of the impact these holiday foods can have on the health of our smiles. While we may be tempted to throw our self-control to the wind and indulge in these decadent spreads, having an understanding of which treats are tooth-friendly and which are harmful can help us keep our smiles healthy and bright throughout the festive season.
The Naughty List:
- This time of year, we see in uptick in a specific type of dental emergency in our Chicago office. Hands down, the most food-related dental emergencies we see this time of year are due to sticky candies and treats. While we love the taste of caramels, toffees, and nougats, they are incredibly sticky and often pull out crowns and fillings. The high sugar content also adheres to the tooth surfaces, encouraging bacteria to grow. The longer these sugary substances linger in the mouth, the higher the risk of cavities and bad breath.
- Most will think of citrus fruits as a healthy snack during the holidays compared to many treat options, but the high acidity of oranges, limes, and cranberry sauce can erode the enamel on your teeth. These fruits do offer health benefits, and are lower in sugar than other desserts, so Dr. Brittany recommends enjoying them in moderation and sipping on water afterward to rinse your mouth and help minimize their acidic impact.
- Pretzels, popcorn, and roasted nuts may seem harmless, but they can be too hard on your teeth. We often see emergencies during the holidays involving biting down on a hard almond and chipping a tooth! We also see popcorn kernels lodged in the gums causing swelling and infection.
Over-Enjoyment of Alcohol:
- Festive holiday parties often include an open bar with choices galore! While it’s okay to participate in the merriment, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration and a dry mouth. This dryness increases prevalence of cavities and encourages bacterial growth. It also increases inflammation, making your gums hyper-reactive and bleeding easily.
The Nice List:
- Cheese lovers, rejoice! Cheese is not only a colorful addition to your holiday spread but also a teeth-friendly option. Rich in calcium and low in sugar, cheese is basic in pH so it helps neutralize acids in the mouth, establishing a healthy balance and protecting tooth enamel.
Crunchy Fruits and Vegetables:
- Reach for crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, and celery. These foods are naturally scrubby and will help remove plaque as well as stimulate saliva production. This aids in the prevention of cavities and promotes fresh breath.
- Nuts, such as walnuts and cashews, are not only nutritious but also beneficial for your teeth. Softer than almonds, they are also less likely to cause chipping. They’re high in protein, low in sugar, stimulate saliva production and help scrub away plaque. Be sure to choose an unsalted variety to minimize sodium intake- nobody wants to look puffy in photos!
- Sugar-free gum, especially those sweetened with xylitol, can be a handy ally in the battle against cavities. Chewing gum stimulates saliva flow, which helps wash away bacteria and neutralize acids. It also keeps your mouth busy and helps to avoid mindless snacking. Just be sure to choose a sugar-free option to avoid covering your teeth in excess sugar.
- For those of us who just can’t deny our sweet tooth, dark chocolate is a better alternative to the sticky candies we talked about earlier. Rich in antioxidants and lower in sugar, dark chocolate can satisfy your sweet cravings without causing as much harm to your teeth. Look for varieties with higher cocoa content for maximum benefits. Our favorite is from local Chicago Chocolatier L.A.Burdick. Their Chocolate Lemon Cake is team favorite here, and the chocolate penguins are an adorable treat to bring your favorite little ones!
While the festive season is a time for celebration and indulgence, it’s still important to strike a balance between enjoying holiday treats and maintaining your health. By being mindful of the impact certain holiday foods can have on your teeth, you can navigate the season with a radiant smile and ring in the new year with your smile intact, or you never know, maybe healthier than ever! Remember to keep up with your brushing and flossing routine at home and get in for your professional cleaning. This will ensure that your pearly whites stay bright and healthy throughout the holiday festivities. Cheers to a season filled with joy, good company, and a sparkling smile!