Holiday Teeth Health Tips

Candy canes, chocolate, and alcohol can all harm your teeth. Here's how to keep teeth healthy this season.

Candy canes image via shutterstock

Candy canes image via shutterstock

Billions of candy canes are eaten every holiday season. Billions! The average chocolate lover eats an estimated 12 pounds of the deliciousness every year. And for the average American, $1 out of every $100 spent is on beer, wine, or spirits. All of these items can be quite harmful to teeth.

Dr. Linda Vidone, dental director for Delta Dental of Massachusetts says that 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, Vidone gave us some oral health tips to keep you out of the dentist chair and smiling into the New Year:

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. Some research suggests that  the compounds in red wine can prevent cavities and plaque build-up,” Vidone says. “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.”

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,” she says. “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.”

For 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,” Vidone says. “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.”

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,” she says. “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.”

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,” Vidone says.

Don’t forget to floss. “Resolve to actually floss once a day this year,” she says.