It’s that time of year to feast on holiday meals, snacks, desserts and candies. Holiday weight gain has always been a concern for many, but maintaining good oral health is just as important.
Many holiday foods and beverages contain carbohydrates, which are sugars and starches. You may be consuming more carbohydrates during the holiday season, so be aware that carbohydrates are responsible for acids that cause tooth decay. Some of the carbohydrates that you may find at your holiday festivities and on your holiday dinner table include breads such as dinner rolls, cakes, pies and candy. In particular, atch out for those sugary holiday favorites like candy canes and eggnog, which stick to the teeth.
Why do carbohydrates lead to tooth decay? It is because there are acid-producing bacteria in the mouth that feed on the carbohydrates. When the acid is not neutralized with an adequate amount of saliva, demineralization of the teeth can occur; causing them to rot. It is important to remember that the faster that the food is removed from the mouth, the better. The risk of cavities is decreased because the amount of time that the teeth are exposed to sugars and carbohydrates is decreased.
During the holiday season avoid foods that remain on the surface of the tooth such as pretzels, chips and raisins. Cooked carbohydrates actually stay on the teeth longer than most foods containing sugars. Some foods to enjoy that don’t cause decay of the teeth are beans, cheese, chicken or other meat, nuts, fish, milk, apples, pears and vegetables. Foods to avoid are candy, cakes, cookies, breads, muffins, french fries, and bananas. Brushing helps to remove food residue and starve the plaque-forming bacteria that eats away at the tooth’s enamel.
When you’re at a holiday party where you will be snacking on sweet and delicious treats, carry a travel sized toothbrush and floss to remove excess food particles that cause tooth decay. In an effort to prevent erosion of the teeth, rinse the mouth with water after consuming wine.
We’re not trying to take away all of your holiday fun! You can still enjoy your favorite holiday meals such as stuffing, rolls, pies, cakes, etc., Just balance them with proteins to counteract some of the acids produced by the carbohydrates. And, of course, don’t forget to brush and floss!