On holidays, most people really let go and eat or drink whatever they want – champagne at New Year’s, chocolate at Easter, and pretty much everything at Christmas.
There are also copious amounts of sweets to tempt even the most diligent of dieters – and plenty of friends, loved ones and distant relatives you only see once a year imploring you to “have another – it’s the holidays.”
That’s why you should be extra careful about keeping your teeth healthy during holiday times. You don’t have to deny your sweet tooth entirely to prevent decay but snacking wisely will help protect your smile the whole year round. Here’s what to do to keep your dentist happy:
- Be mindful about how long it will take you to eat the sweet stuff. It's not the amount of cavity-causing food you eat; it's how long you eat it for. It’s better to expose your teeth to sugar for a shorter amount of time. For example, sweets you suck for a long time are worse than having an extra helping of dessert that you can polish off quickly. And any holiday treat that you snap with your teeth can cause tooth fractures that will seriously hamper your smile’s style.
- Go for dark chocolate. Research studies show that dental health and heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure are interrelated, which is excellent news if you're a chocoholic. Dark chocolate is – ahem – chock full of flavonoids which helps protect you against these diseases, so it's better for your teeth, too. Always choose sixty per cent cocoa or more chocolate for the best results.
- Choose Sugar-Free. Sweets that swap sugar for xylitol are far better for your teeth. In fact, xylitol can help reduce the amount of plaque in your mouth because it’s known to cut the Streptococcus mutans bacteria that causes cavities. You’ll need a lolly that has serious amounts of xylitol in it – look for sweets that list the sugar alcohol first.
- Stay away from sticky. If you have braces or Invisalign, you’ll already know that gummy, sticky lollies play havoc with them. Although they’re super yummy, give gummy bears, toffees, jubes, snakes and other chewy, sugary treats a miss during the holidays. Even the dried fruits in your Christmas pud can be troublesome for your teeth. If you can’t resist, eating a pack in one go rather than all day long is better for you, because it takes a while for your saliva to clear the stickiness away.
- Fizzy drinks with ice. Carbonated beverages are always plentiful during the holidays, whether it's champagne or coca cola. The acid in fizzy sodas can dissolve your enamel leaving your mouth feeling more sensitive and more prone to decay. Add hard, super-cold ice cubes that can chip or break a tooth easily or cause your teeth to contract and you have a recipe for disaster. Chewing ice – though one of life's unexpected pleasures – is especially problematic for those with braces.
If you must eat your fill of sweets, there are a few things you can do to help prevent decay and damage:
- Try to eat sweets with a meal because the other foods can help prevent them sticking to your teeth.
- Drink water while snacking to neutralise the acid of the sugar.
- Chew some sugar-free gum for at least 20 minutes after eating to increase saliva production, which clears bacteria and plaque from the mouth.
- Don't brush your teeth after eating sweets for at least half an hour because your enamel is it's most vulnerable and soft from the acids.