When you go into your dentist’s office, you can bet that your dentist will have a list of dental concerns to address, and he or she will likely check it twice. In just a few minutes of examination, your dentist will know whether you’ve been naughty or nice to your teeth during the holidays. He or she can tell if you’ve been flossing, and he or she will know if you’ve been using proper brushing techniques.
If you want to come away from your appointment with a smile rather than a pout (and a hefty bill), take extra care of your teeth this season. The following tips and pointers can help you fight gum inflammation and minimize the likelihood of tooth decay.
- Let the Nutcracker Do the Work
The vitamins and minerals in nuts can greatly improve the health of your teeth and gums. Almonds, for example, offer plenty of calcium, which supports strong bones and connective tissue. Similarly, walnuts supply calcium as well as magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, which optimize calcium absorption.
However, nuts do pose problems if you try to open the shell with your teeth. If you don’t exercise care, you may loosen, crack, or chip a tooth in an attempt to pry that last pistachio out of its shell.
To enjoy the benefits without the risks, use a nutcracker to pull apart the shell. Don’t have a nutcracker on hand? Wrap the nuts in a towel and smack them with a hammer or similar object. The towel will hold the nuts in place and cushion the blow if you miss.
- Choose Tooth-Friendly Snacks
The holiday season presents countless opportunities to snack, nibble, and munch with your friends and family. But if you want a healthier smile this season, make tooth-friendly swaps whenever you eat appetizers, snacks, and hors d’oeuvres.
Rather than chowing down on chips and dip (which will stick to your teeth), select from the cheese platter (as dairy neutralizes acids in your mouth). Instead of chugging the sugar-filled eggnog, opt for water, milk, or unsweetened tea. If you must choose between caramel popcorn and dark chocolate peppermint bark, pick the chocolate for its cavity-fighting polyphenols.
Not sure if a treat is helpful or harmful? As a general rule, avoid any sticky-sweet foods that linger on your teeth long after you indulge. Similarly, watch out for hard, crunchy foods that may chip a tooth. When in doubt, pick fresh fruits and vegetables, and remember to rinse your mouth with water after you eat.
- Incorporate Dessert as Part of the Meal
If you’ve been good all year, you may feel tempted to be a little naughty during the holidays and indulge in fanciful desserts that you might not otherwise. That slice of grandma’s homemade apple pie may seem too irresistible to pass up, and that delightfully frosted sugar cookie may call out to you.
Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice all sweets to protect your teeth. You simply have to exercise a little restraint and time your desserts with care.
To minimize damage, eat your delicacies alongside a healthier meal rather than making dessert a separate affair. Large meals stimulate your saliva production, and your saliva effectively neutralizes acid while rinsing away food particles that stick to your teeth.
If you must eat dessert separately, chew on sugar-free gum afterward to keep your saliva production going.
- Take Time to Relax and Unwind
The holidays can introduce a lot of extra stress and pressure in your life, especially if you have to cater to large groups of people. You may have to juggle multiple family events with your already hectic work schedule. You might have to cook batch after batch of cookies for the neighborhood social. Or, perhaps you need to house your sister-in-law and her three kids while they visit from out of state.
This extra stress can wreak havoc on your teeth, gums, and mouth. During particularly anxious moments or frustrating moments, you may clench and grind your teeth until they crack. In your rush to keep everyone else happy, you might forget to brush and floss. If you feel nervous about giving the annual speech at the party, you might develop dry mouth.
To keep your teeth (and your sanity) this year, make sure to take time for yourself amidst all the hustle and bustle. Take a long hot shower or soak in the bathtub after a day of shopping for gifts. Lock yourself in your bedroom and read that novel you’ve neglected for months. Or, crank up some seasonal tunes and dance away your nervous energy.
Enjoy the Festivities Without the Cavities
You and your family deserve a holiday season filled with happy, healthy smiles. When you combine your daily oral routine with the above tips, you can significantly reduce your likelihood of cavities without sacrificing the fun and magic of the season.
Just remember to book your annual dental checkup after the fun has ended so you can keep your teeth in great shape.