Whether you brush your teeth once, twice or thrice per day, this daily ritual can sometimes fall to the wayside during and after the holiday seasons. Sweet treats lurk around every kitchen corner and dining room dessert table. Luckily, we’ve got you covered — but not covered in toothpaste. Check out our top five tips to take care of your teeth this winter.
1. Keep your routine.
Maintaining an oral hygiene routine is always important, especially during the holidays, when parties can go late into the night and interfere, says Dr. Leena Palomo, director of the Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry program in periodontics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
“The bacteria which cause tooth decay and gum disease don’t know it’s the holidays, just as the blood sugar, body mass index and triglyceride levels don’t know that it’s the holidays,” she says, adding that it’s still vital to maintain brushing daily and flossing and eating at meal times, rather than grazing.
“It’s easy to ‘fall off the wagon’ maintaining both dental and overall health during the holidays,” Palomo says. “It happens. But being mindful during that time and enforcing a routine right after the holidays conclude are good strategies.”
2. Don’t go nuts cracking nuts.
The hard surface of many nutshells may cause serious tooth and gum damage when trying to open them with your teeth, says Dr. Bruce L. Cassis, a dentist from Fayetteville, West Virginia, and president-elect of the Academy of General Dentistry.
“Nuts are excellent sources of proteins for muscle and bone strength, but the shells only do damage,” he says. “Invest in a nutcracker! Opening beverage bottles with your teeth can also lead to serious tooth and gum damage. Teeth weren’t made to open beverage bottles and often leads to fractured teeth. Invest in a bottle opener, which is less expensive than a trip to the dentist to repair fractured teeth or lacerated gums.”
3. Quench your thirst the right way.
It’s tempting to grab a glass of eggnog or pop, but Palomo says to go for water instead of sugary drinks.
“Sticky foods, like dried fruit, and starchy foods, like cakes and chips, promote tooth decay and increase blood sugar,” she adds. “Too much alcohol dries the mouth and removes from the cleansing effects of saliva.”
Drinking a lot of water is also helpful in staving off dental decay because it can rinse off food from the teeth and buffer pH levels of the mouth to avoid acidity.
4. Glasses up!
Drinking glasses and bottles are big dental culprits during the holidays and any time you’re entertaining or at a party, says Dr. Charles Sutera, founder and president of Aesthetic Smile Reconstruction in Waltham, Massachusetts.
“The accident is usually the same scenario: someone bumps your elbow while you’re drinking from a glass or bottle, and unfortunately, a front tooth is punished,” he says. “When in close quarters with a lot of other people, one technique I suggest is to preventatively hold your hand as close to the top of your glass or bottle as possible. When you do that, if someone bumps into you, you will bump the soft part of your hand against your mouth instead of the hard surface of a glass or bottle.”
5. Pets are important, too.
When it comes to your animals, “keep them on a regular diet and avoid table scraps. Pets don’t know there is a holiday,” Cassis says.
Sutera adds that when you have a house full of company, pets often get a little more free reign than usual.
“Be sure to keep your dental appliances off the counters and out of their reach,” Sutera says. “We usually have a few extra calls after the holidays that a pet had a field day and chewed up a dental appliance.”