The holidays herald some of the most delicious meals and treats of the season, but they present a health problem: how do you get the most out of the holidays without overindulging? If you’re worried about your dental health around the holidays, you’re not alone. But as long as you follow these simple tips, your teeth should survive the season.
When in Doubt, Rinse
Many people struggle to maintain their dental health during the holidays because they can’t maintain their usual habits. When you’re traveling or hosting company, taking the time to brush your teeth after every meal can be hard. Consistency is one of the most important parts of dental health, but there are always things you can do to make cavities less likely.
Rinsing your mouth with water after meals has been shown to reduce oral bacteria by as as much as 30%, and it can be done almost anywhere. When you’re running between holiday meals or trying to feed your entire extended family, this can be a great way to keep your mouth clean while still staying on schedule.
Sticky Is The Enemy
Sticky sweets are a big holiday culprit, and knowing to avoid them or replace them with more tooth-friendly alternatives is a good idea. Really sticky holiday sweets, like things with caramel and taffy, can even pull out fillings.
Sticky foods tend to get trapped along the gumline and in cavities, which leads to accelerated tooth decay. Sticky foods are hard to dislodge with rinsing, which means that they stay on the tooth longer in situations when you can’t brush regularly. If you’re in a situation where you know you won’t be able to clean your teeth in a reasonable amount of time, avoid sticky treats.
Acidic foods should be avoided as well, although in this circumstance the primary culprit isn’t soda – it’s wine. Make sure to balance alcohol consumption with plenty of water, and make a point of brushing your teeth before going to bed. It’ll make waking up more pleasant, too.
Buy a Travel Brush
Trying to brush your teeth in your grandmother’s bathroom after Christmas dinner can be inconvenient, but packing a collapsable travel toothbrush and properly-sized tubes of travel toothpaste can make it significantly easier.
Any kind of brushing or dental care is better than none, so don’t be afraid to take the time to clean your teeth when it doesn’t line up with your usual habits. If you’re worried about your toothpaste altering the taste of your food (and, after all, eating great food is one of the best parts of the holidays), use a toothpaste that doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate or its variants. SLS is the foaming agent used in many toothpastes that changes how certain flavours (like coffee and oranges) are perceived. SLS-free toothpastes don’t have the same effect, meaning you can enjoy your favorite holiday foods without sacrificing your dental health.
If you’re pressed for time, try brushing your teeth before meals instead of after. Since acidic foods can soften your enamel, it’s generally recommended to wait an hour after eating to brush your teeth, so that brushing won’t wear away your enamel. Since this isn’t always practical during the holidays, brushing before meals can help you maintain your healthy habits without endangering your teeth. With SLS-free toothpaste, you can do this without worrying about how food will taste.