As the holiday season approaches, most of us know we probably need to keep an extra eye on our waistlines. Especially with all of the homemade treats, baked gifts, and feasting that we’ve been waiting to enjoy for so long! But just like our weight and our pant size, our teeth can be dramatically impacted when the holidays roll around. Fortunately, there are simple, smart steps to take that can help keep your mouth healthy (and your smile bright) all season long!
Without having to deny yourself of your holiday favorites, here are some easy tips to follow:
Can’t Brush? Rinse With Water!
Nothing replaces brushing and flossing. But let’s be real. There are just going to be some times throughout the holidays where you don’t have a toothbrush on you. Like that office brunch, dinner at a neighbor’s, or when you make that day trip to grandma’s house. To keep your breath fresh and plaque levels lower, step aside after you eat or drink anything to go rinse your mouth out with water.
Some vigorous rinsing won’t remove plaque the same way toothbrushing does, but it will flush away some of the acids and food debris that are hanging out inside of your mouth. The sooner you rinse after eating/snacking, the better. After it’s been about 30 minutes, it’s not as effective.
Pay Attention to When You Snack
Did you know that when you eat or drink anything, the bacteria inside of your mouth secrete acidic byproducts for the next half hour? Every time you nibble or snack, you’re exposing your teeth to 30 minutes of acid. There’s no way you can avoid it.
Snacking frequently throughout the day prolongs the length of time there is acidic biofilm inside of your mouth. If you have a tiny bite of something every hour when you walk by the break room, it’s worse than eating a larger serving of it at a given point in the day.
Limit acid exposure by eating less frequently, rather than smaller amounts more frequently.
Eat Your Dessert Right Away
Along the lines of acid exposure above, you can further limit damage to your teeth by having your dessert immediately after your meal (rather than waiting an hour or so.) Since there is already acid in your mouth from the meal you ate, it’s a good time to go ahead and get your dessert “out of the way” so to speak.
And if you’re looking for an excuse to indulge a little early at that next family dinner, you could always eat your dessert first. Hypothetically you’re going to be neutralizing all of those sugars by eating the other food right after it! Really, we’re just giving you an excuse to pop into the kitchen and sneak something if you want—don’t let the kids see you spoil your dinner.
Stay Alert to Sweet Sensitivity
Chances are, you’ll probably have more sweets during the next month than you do during the rest of the year. It’s to be expected, right? Just remember that any tooth sensitivity to sweet foods or drinks is also a red flag for tooth decay.
If you experience any zinging, twinges, pain, or general sensitivity in a specific area of your mouth after eating something sweet, you need to have it looked at. You might not even be able to tell exactly which tooth it’s coming from, only that something doesn’t feel right.
Not every cavity is sensitive to sweets, but usually, teeth won’t be sweet sensitive unless there’s active decay.
Intercepting cavities earlier prevents them from spreading elsewhere. They will only get bigger with time, so be sure to schedule a checkup or exam with our Raleigh dentist as quickly as possible.
Drink Plenty of (Tap) Water
Water is a natural cleanser. It flushes away food debris, bacteria, and acids in your mouth. Drinking water also helps you have fresher breath.
But not all water is created equal. Yes, you could purchase bottled water at the store and that would be perfectly fine. However, on a long-term basis tap water is typically better for your mouth. Why? Because tap water from municipal water sources (not well water) is regulated for appropriate mineral levels, including fluoride. Bottled water is not. When you choose to drink tap water and keep a refillable bottle on hand, you know your teeth and bones are getting the recommended intake of fluoride and other essential nutrients.
Like rinsing with water, sipping water frequently throughout the day will help lower the risk of damage to your teeth caused by all of those holiday sweets!
Put Some Flossers in Your Car or Desk
Floss picks might not reach everywhere in your mouth, but they’re definitely better than nothing. And if you find that you have a lot of extra time driving around in the car, why not use it to clean your teeth?
Technically when you floss, you want to have a strand that you can wrap snuggly around the tooth and slide up and down under the gums. You usually can’t do that with a floss pick. But floss picks do have their advantages. Such as quickly cleaning out food between teeth or visible plaque before you step into a business meeting. Most floss picks have a handy toothpick-style tip on one end, making them good for removing stuck food like meat or stringy vegetables.
As an added bonus, floss picks clean the contact areas where your teeth touch side-by-side. So, even if they’re not cleaning your gumlines as well as you need (we still recommend flossing at home once a day) they can cut down on your risk of tooth decay in those spaces.
Chew Some Gum with Xylitol
Xylitol is a particular type of 5-carbon molecule that prevents plaque bacteria from sticking to your teeth or accumulating in large amounts. It essentially breaks up the buildup before it forms in your mouth. There were even studies that showed applying xylitol reduced plaque levels more than toothbrushing.
Now, don’t go giving up your toothbrush anytime soon. But definitely consider keeping some xylitol gum on hand for when you’re on the go between office lunches, holiday parties, and nights out on the town. Pop a piece after your meal to prevent heavy plaque buildup before you get home to brush your teeth. Especially if you’ve enjoyed some sweets or processed carbs.
Although xylitol can be purchased in spray or drop form at health food stores, the easiest option is to just pick up a pack of gum at the grocery store. Not all sugar-free gums contain xylitol though, so be sure to read the label. Orbit, Trident, and Mentos are a few popular gums that contain xylitol.
Be Sure to Brush Your Gums
Your gum tissues are one of the most overlooked, important aspects of your smile. Not only do they create the frame for your beautiful teeth, but they also help to anchor them in place. When your gums don’t get the attention that they need, they become inflamed and start to bleed. In fact, gum disease is the biggest reason for tooth loss.
Whenever you brush your teeth, be sure to give your gums some love. Stimulate them gently by angling your toothbrush toward the gumline and making short strokes at each tooth. Apply just enough pressure so that the gums slightly blanch, but nothing more. Aggressive scrubbing can cause your gums to recede, so it’s a fine balance between how much pressure you should use. If you think you’re scrubbing too hard, hold your brush with just 2-3 fingers. Or consider switching to a quality electric toothbrush and simply hold it in place – it will do all of the work for you!
Remember, no matter how great you are at brushing, you’ll still want to follow up with some dental floss. Flossing is just as important for your gums as it is for your teeth.
Squeeze in a Dental Cleaning or Whitening
When was your last dental cleaning? Most people need one at least every six months. Bonus: your insurance probably covers two cleanings a year. There’s still time to get your covered dental visit scheduled before your annual dental benefits expire.
Having your teeth professionally cleaned will help freshen your breath and polish away surface stains. You’ll be ready to pose for that next family or office photo without having to worry about everyone seeing how much coffee you drank during the pandemic!
After a cleaning is a great time to whiten your teeth. If you already have custom trays, it’s best to touch up after a professional checkup. But if you’ve never whitened before, our Raleigh cosmetic dentistry office can help. We offer professional whitening treatments that can remove both years of stain as well as brighten your natural tooth color.
Call Raleigh Dental Arts Today
Smile healthier and happier this holiday season! If you need to see a dentist in Raleigh or have questions about a sensitive tooth, contact us today. New patients are always welcome.