The holiday season is just around the corner, and we all know what it feels like to be surrounded by dozens of tempting treats. From candy canes to cookies to cakes and beyond, there are so many things to love about the holiday season. Unfortunately, these tasty treats present a real risk for your dental wellness. When consumed in excess, tasty Christmas treats can cause cavities, dental decay, and more.
Fortunately, you can keep your family’s mouths healthy and happy by avoiding certain foods and drinks which are bad for your teeth, and substituting them with healthier alternatives this holiday season.
Here’s what you need to know:
5 Christmas Treats That are Bad for Your Teeth
They’re attractive, they’re delicious, but they’re terrible for your teeth. To keep your mouth healthy and happy this year, avoid these five Christmas treats:
1. Candy Canes
Candy canes are synonymous with Christmas, but they aren’t great for your teeth. In fact, candy canes are the definition of a food that’s bad for your teeth. Because they take forever to eat, they coat teeth with sugar, sticky residue, and dye. Over time, this produces a nice, slimy treat for the bacteria in your mouth, which feed on the sugar and produce acid.
This acid, in turn, increases the risk of cavities and erodes enamel. The enamel, which is a protective layer on the teeth, can create weak areas when it’s damaged. While you’re avoiding hard candies, you’ll also want to avoid the candies you see in candy dishes and other easy-to-grab locations during the holidays.
Caramels are some of our favorite Christmas treats, but they’re also some of the worst for teeth. If you’d prefer not to kick off the new year having cavities filled, stay away from them this Christmas season. Whether it shows up in a Christmas cookie or drizzled over sweet popcorn, caramel is one of the worst foods for your teeth.
Because it’s sugar that sticks to and coats teeth, caramel can wear away tooth enamel and increase the risk of dental decay. Other sticky treats, like peanut brittle, should also be avoided.
3. Baked Goods
Baked goods abound during the Christmas season. Cookie plates seem to be everywhere, and it’s easy to grab a few Christmas cookies without even thinking about it. Unfortunately, this can spell a severe issue for your teeth.
Cookies, brownies, cakes, and other delectable baked treats are high in sugar, which is terrible for your teeth.
Even dried fruit in foods like fruit cakes and more has a high sugar content. To make matters even worse, small pieces of these treats may lodged between teeth, causing cavities and dental decay. If you decide to indulge (in moderation, of course), be sure to brush and floss your teeth immediately after eating.
4. Sugary Drinks
While a glass of eggnog or hot cocoa might be comforting and warming on a chilly December day, these drinks are chock-full of sugar, which increases your risk of tooth decay. That risk becomes even higher if you add accessories, like marshmallows or whipped cream.
With this in mind, enjoy these drinks mindfully and stay away from drinking them daily. As always, remember to brush and floss your teeth after consuming these drinks to stave off cavities and keep your teeth healthy and happy.
5. White Wine
Planning to have a few glasses of wine with holiday dinner? If dental health is your top priority, it’s wise to reach for red wine instead of white. Because red wine contains good bacteria that can actually banish bad bacteria in the mouth, it can help stave off tooth decay and leave your mouth healthy at the end of the night.
White wine, on the other hand, is higher in acid and will erode the enamel on the dental surface. This makes the teeth more vulnerable to decay and damage. Worried about discoloration caused by red wine? Brush your teeth after finishing your drink.
Foods to Eat Instead
If the treats above are off-limits, what can you eat this Christmas? And what kinds of tasty foods will support your dental wellness and help keep your teeth healthy? While the foods and beverages on the forbidden list may be some of the most delicious holidays treats out there, that doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat any of them. Instead, focus on eating them sparingly, and ensuring you brush and floss your teeth immediately afterward. If you’re interested in learning about some healthy substitutes, there are plenty of tasty alternatives you can enjoy. Keep your teeth strong and healthy this Holiday season by swapping out some “must avoid” foods for the ones on the list below:
- Cheese: Did you know that eating cheese boosts saliva production? Saliva also strengthens and improves dental enamel, thanks to its high calcium content. Finally, eating cheese can lower your mouth’s pH balance, which may help to stave off cavities.
- Vegetables: Vegetables are a great source of fiber, and will provide outstanding protection against cavities. For best results, reach for options like broccoli and celery, which boost saliva production and help protect against cavities. Broccoli also contains a high level of vitamin A, which fortifies tooth enamel for a healthier mouth.
- Nuts: In the mood for a salty treat? Grab some nuts instead of Christmas candy. Nuts are chock-full of essential fatty acids, which keep your mouth and gums healthy. Need more evidence? Check out this 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The one thing to avoid? Opening the nuts with your teeth rather than a nutcracker.
How to Keep Teeth Healthy During the Holidays
When it comes to the holidays, you can keep your teeth healthy with just a few simple hacks. Follow these tips to enjoy seasonal sweets and maintain your cavity-free smile throughout. These tips can help keep your mouth healthy and cavity-free for years to come.
Lay off the Candy
Again, you can enjoy candy; you just have to do it sparingly. While the holidays present a nonstop buffet of sweets, they can destroy your teeth quickly. Instead of overdosing on sweets, eat a single dessert and brush your teeth immediately afterward. This approach will allow you to expose your teeth to less sugar and reduce your risk of dental decay.
Use a Nutcracker
Save your teeth from breaks and cracks by using a nutcracker, not your teeth, to crack nuts. If there’s no nutcracker in sight, choose a different snack. One poorly-placed bite can easily break teeth, leading to expensive, long-term dental issues.
Maintain a Routine
The holidays make it tough to maintain a routine, but doing so is essential to your dental wellness. Don’t let the holidays throw you off schedule – keep brushing two times a day. If you have trouble remembering to do this, put a toothbrush in your bag and step away from a party or gathering for a quick bout of dental wellness.
Make Appointments With Your Dentist
Throughout the holiday season, maintain your appointments with your dentist. Skipping dental exams can make it harder to spot issues and may put you at risk for cavities and dental decay.
Healthier Teeth Start Here
Keep your teeth healthy throughout the holiday season with these simple tips. While The holidays present all sorts of troublesome challenges, these tips can help your teeth stay healthy and happy throughout.
Keep the good dental health going by booking a Holiday follow-up appointment with us now!
Dr. Felicity is a National Board Certified Dentist and a Longtime resident of Charleston.