Holiday Snacking: How to Protect your Pearly Whites

Pumpkin pie.  Sugar Cookies. Candy canes. Sugar plums. Chocolate fudge. These holiday essentials are part of what makes this time of year special… but they are also the same foods that may contibute to that cavity that needs filled in the spring.  Here are some tips that will help you minimize the impact of some of your sugary holiday favorites on your teeth:

1. Brush and floss.  It sounds simple and obvious but many people fall out of their normal routines duing the holiday season and it is important to remember to keep up with normal oral hygiene practices. It is recommended to brush after each meal but at least twice a day.

2. Swish with water. Simple sugars are the fuel that bacteria use to cause decay in our teeth.  The less time that sugar sits on the teeth, the less decay you’ll have.  Also, acidic drinks and foods make the tooth softer and more prone to being broken down by the bacteria in our mouths.  Swishing with water after eating sugary or acidic food and beverages helps to wash your meal away.

3. Chew xylitol gum after meals. Xylitol is a naturally occuring wood sugar that is used as a substitute sweetner in some sugarless gums.  The advantage of this particular sugar is that bacteria cannot use it to produce acid to cause tooth decay.  In fact, it acutally inhibits the activity of the bacteria for a time. Studies have shown that chewing a piece of gum with xylitol as the main sweetner reduces decay rates.

4. Reduce the frequency of your snacking. Each time we eat simple sugars, there is a window of time when the bacteria is actively digesting the sugars and producing acid to break down our teeth.  The fewer windows there are, the less decay we will have.

If you’re like me, it’s hard to resist sneaking a cookie or two but by following these simple tips you can keep your chompers doing their job for many years to come.

Happy Holidays and Bon Appetit!