This is the time of year when healthy eating takes a backseat to the joys of holiday treats. For the next several weeks, chances are you and your family members will be tempted by traditional holiday favorites that are loaded with sugar and empty calories. In many families, other than the candy kids get during Halloween, the holiday season is about the only time when sugar-laden foods are offered in such great quantities. Your teeth and gums are particularly vulnerable during this time, unless you take special care to keep them clean and healthy. This year, for those who must wear a mask while working, it is even more important to be diligent about your oral hygiene in order to minimize the chances of tooth decay.
Have You Had Your Dental Checkup?
There are several reasons you may want to consider getting a dental checkup now if you have not had one recently. First and foremost, the dental checkup is the best way to ensure that you are maintaining your optimal oral health.
During your checkup, the dentist and hygienist look for signs of dental decay, gum disease and oral cancer. A thorough examination can identify problems in their earliest stages. Small pits or grooves in the teeth provide breeding grounds for harmful bacteria to grow and produce the acids that eat away at tooth enamel.
The harmful bacteria in your mouth feed on sugars from the foods and beverages you ingest. As you can well imagine, during the holidays, as you feast on the cookies, cakes, pies and sweet dishes provided, the bacteria in your mouth are feasting as well. Special jellies and jams, wines and beers, juices and soft drinks all provide these bacteria with plenty to thrive and grow. Unless you are being conscientious about your oral care, your teeth and gums are going to be under siege as plaque buildup and decay-producing acids proliferate in your moutIn addition to the oral health benefits of scheduling a dental checkup at this time are the financial rewards of getting the most out of your dental insurance plans or health savings account (HSA.) If you have not reached your annual maximum yet, scheduling a dental checkup now and any dental work that needs to be completed before the year end will help you make the most of your dental insurance dollars. Most HSAs require you to spend the balance or lose it.
Unfortunately, many people do not remember to use the last of their benefits until it is too late. Either they forget all together, or they cannot schedule an appointment before the year ends. Waiting too long can be costly, whereas scheduling those end of year appointments can save you hundreds of dollars.
Keep Yourself Hydrated
The holiday season can be very hectic. Between shopping, holiday parties and events, visiting family and friends, other activities and day to day work and home responsibilities, it is amazing you have time for anything. When your life is so busy, it can be easy to forget about drinking plenty of fluids.
In the summer, you have the heat and thirst to remind you to drink up and stay hydrated. Keeping up with your fluid intake is more present in your mind at that time of year. During the holidays, you may not have those environmental cues. It can be quite easy to forget to stay hydrated in winter, even though it is just as important.
Alcohol intake increases during the holidays for many individuals. You may not realize the dehydrating properties of alcohol as you toast to friends and family or enjoy a bottle of red with colleagues or a few beers with the guys. Good hydration is another factor that helps you maintain your best oral health.
Dehydration leaves your body with fewer fluids to work with and all body systems require water. Normally, saliva bathes the mouth constantly and washes away substantial amounts of bad bacteria. When the body is dehydrated, your mouth becomes dry, and the bad bacteria now have an environment in which to grow freely. This leads to more plaque buildup and more enamel-dissolving acids on your teeth. Unless you take special precautions to keep your mouth from drying out, you risk developing dental problems.
Plan To Eat Healthy
You know you are going to indulge in foods that are not the healthiest for your teeth or body in the coming weeks. Balance those foods with healthy foods. You do not need to deny yourself the holiday treats and special dishes that are going to be laid before you; but if you can make the decision to indulge with moderation, it will be better for your oral health as well as your body.
Holiday cookies will be served by the dozens, some of which you will not see again until this time next year. It is hard to turn down such fare and unless you have a health condition that requires you to abstain, it is fine for you to pamper yourself and gratify those cravings – up to a point. Do yourself and your teeth and gums a favor by also including healthy fruits and vegetables in your snacking.
Did you know that hard foods such as apples and carrots are not only good for you, they also help keep your teeth and gums clean? That raw veggie platter will help fill you up without empty calories and if the veggie dip is made from yogurt, you get bonus points. The healthy bacteria contained in yogurt has been found to protect your gums and teeth from disease and decay. Plus, the probiotics are good for your gut.
If you are the one hosting the party or family get-together, be sure to offer healthy foods along with the not so healthy treats. Fruit-infused water will keep your guests well hydrated with a tasty, very low-calorie beverage. Consider using and offering stevia as a sugar substitute. It is safe for teeth and helps lower cholesterol. It has the added bonus of helping to fight plaque.
Be Aware of the Little Things
There are little things you can do to enhance your oral health during this holiday season. Be aware of those factors that can lead to problems or create a hostile oral environment for your teeth and gums.
If you wear a mask for hours at a time, as most essential workers do, make some “free-face” time for yourself throughout the day whenever possible. Go outside, take your mask off and breathe fresh air and drink some water. In fact, when you wear a mask, it is a good idea to sip on water whenever you can to keep your mouth moist. You can also chew sugar free gum or suck on sugarless hard candies to help stimulate saliva flow. Keep some with you for those times your mouth feels dry.
Keep a carafe of water by your bedside so you can take a sip if you wake up during the night. Some individuals partially freeze a bottle of water to put out, although room temperature water is actually healthier for you.
Make a point of brushing and flossing between meals if you are going heavy on the sweets. There are small, disposable toothbrushes on the market now, so you can brush your teeth after every meal (and snack) no matter where you are.
Enjoy your winter holidays and make beautiful memories with the ones you love and care about. Take care of your teeth and call on Aesthetic & Implant Dentistry of Atlanta for all your dental requirements. Schedule an appointment with us today.