Stay Smiling This Holiday Season

Dr. Linda Vidone, dental director for Delta Dental of Massachusetts


Family gatherings and holiday parties from now until New Years are known for sweet treats and goodies.  Billions of candy canes are eaten each holiday season, and we each put away an estimated 12 pounds of chocolates each year. But it’s not just the food.


For the average American, $1 out of every $100 spent is on beer, wine or spirits, which can be quite harmful to teeth.


If you don't make good decisions about what you eat and drink, or properly clean your teeth, you could end up with tooth decay, gum disease and possible tooth loss.


With this in mind, here are some oral health tips to keep you out of the dentist chair and smiling into the New Year:  


1.    Red or White Wine?  While many people think red wine is worse because of its staining power, white wine contains more sugar which is actually more harmful for your teeth in the long run.  Compounds in red wine can prevent cavities and plaque build-up, researchers say. A new study from New York University shows that white wine has an acid content that tends to increase the risk of dark dental stains, and can also erode enamel, the protective layer of your teeth, making teeth more sensitive to cold, hot and sweet foods. Brushing your teeth right after a sipping a crisp Chardonnay may actually make the problem worse, so it’s best to rinse your mouth with water and wait a bit before brushing.

2.    What to eat with that wine? Foods like cheese, poultry, meat, nuts and milk are high in calcium and phosphorus, which helps re-mineralize tooth enamel.  Other good choices for holiday parties include crunchy fruits and vegetables, like apples, pears and carrots, which have a higher water content and help to dilute the effects of the sugars. 

3.    Spirits? Lighter is better. Lighter or clear spirits or liquor will help you avoid higher sugar contents. Beware of mixing clear alcohol with sugary juices or soda. As with wine, you should rinse your mouth with water after you drink and before you brush your teeth. Keep the sugary drinks, such as eggnog and punch to a minimum.

4.    Consume candy in moderation – and choose sugar free. If you are choosing between a candy cane and a piece of chocolate, go with the chocolate. Sticky candies and foods that take a long time to chew, including nutritious choices like raisins, dates and dried fruit, are less likely to wash out from between your teeth than other foods, so try to limit your consumption of them.

5.    Brush twice a day for two minutes. No matter how exhausted you may be from hosting your family or attending your fifth holiday party in a row, always remember to brush your teeth before you go to bed. If all the acid from the food you ate gets eight hours to fester in your mouth, it can do a lot of damage that could have been prevented in just two minutes, two times per day!

6.    Don’t forget to floss. Resolve to actually floss once a day this year.

Good dental habits throughout the holidays – and year round – will help make for a happier and healthier New Year. As you make plans for 2014, resolve to be better to your teeth because that’s something we can all smile about.


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