How to Protect Your Oral Health While Enjoying the Christmas Season

Girl drinking coffee outside in front of Christmas lights
The holidays are a wonderful time best spent with family and friends! Here are a couple tips to keep you smiling through the New Year!

The holiday season is a wonderful time of the year, where the hours spent bundled up outside during the day are rewarded with warm drinks and home-made treats once you make it back indoors. Who can resist a mug of hot chocolate and their favorite Christmas cookie after a day in the snow? As enticing as all of the season’s offerings are, it’s important to keep in mind your oral health as you enjoy this time of year. Celebrating in December does not have to result in dental treatment plans in January! Let’s take a look at three of the main ways that you can prioritize your oral health over the holidays while still indulging in your those cookies as you spend time with those you love.

Do not neglect your dental regimen.

Young woman at dentist in chair
Regular dental checkups are key to maintaining oral health over long term.

December is normally a month full of constant family get-togethers, parties, planned trips, and spontaneous outings. Amidst all of the excitement, flossing and brushing can easily get pushed to the wayside. Late nights and late mornings with loved ones can add up, and before you know it, your oral health routine is a thing of the past. Getting out of the habit of brushing and flossing during the holidays can have disastrous results, as you are left defenseless against the effects of decay-causing bacteria that lurks in all of your favorite treats. Aside from your morning and nightly routine, make sure you remember to:

  • Keep your regular dentist visits. As long as you’re seeing your friendly downtown Pensacola dentist bi-annually, cavities won’t stand a chance! 😉A thorough cleaning and examination go a long way in preventing serious decay because only a professional can remove tartar (hardened plaque), and the check-up will reveal any issues that might have caused problems in the future. Maintaining these visits are a vital component to your oral health and your ability to indulge periodically without feeling guilty.
  • Focus on fluoride. Fluoride is irreplaceable in terms of strengthening enamel. It is a naturally-occurring mineral that both remineralizes your tooth surface and fights bad bacteria in the mouth. According to the ADA, fluoride not only fortifies enamel but it actually “turns back the clock” on the first stages of decay! Drinking fluoridated community water and using toothpaste with fluoride are the two best ways of ensuring you are getting enough.

Eat sweets the right way.

A table with Christmas themed gingerbread cookies
Indulging in Christmas cookies is great! Just remember, don’t nibble all day on sweets!

Enjoying a sugar cookie while sipping hot cocoa or eggnog around the tree at night is a wonderful part of the season that should be enjoyed without guilt, but making it a special event instead of a daily habit is the key to protecting your oral health. If sugar is consumed in excess and left to sit on the tooth surface, it will quickly start to cause cavities. This is because bacteria turns sugar into acid, which rots the enamel.  Cavities are so prevalent that, according to the CDC, it is now estimated that 91 percent of Americans over 20 years old have developed them at some point. Dental cavities are an incredibly common disease, and very preventable. The best way to protect your teeth from cavities while still enjoying sugar is to keep these two steps in mind:

  • Minimize the amount of time the sugar comes in contact with your teeth. Eating one cookie in one sitting is far better than nibbling small bites over the course of hours.  If you linger over sugar for a long period of time and indulge multiple times through the day, the acid will just continue to increase and cause damage. If it’s a sweet beverage that’s calling your name, have only one serving for the day and drink it in one sitting.
  • Swish with water. After you eat, saliva and a thorough swish of water will wash away much of the bacteria. After 30 minutes, you can brush and go about your day eating nutritiously.

Don’t forget to maintain your water intake.

Whether due to the constant Christmas parties or the numerous cozy nights-in, alcohol intake is typically higher during the winter months while water intake takes a hit. This becomes the perfect storm for dry mouth, as alcohol suppresses saliva production. If you are already dehydrated when you have an alcoholic drink, it will begin to show on your teeth and gums. Additionally, dry mouth can also be caused by cold weather, as anything on your body that is exposed to the elements will lose moisture. Inhaling the freezing air dries out your saliva, and a congested nose makes the problem even worse because you are forced to breathe only through your mouth.

A dry environment is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria to thrive. so reaching for a glass of water is a quick way to moisten your mouth in the winter and reduce the acid levels when saliva is lacking. It is so much easier to remember to hydrate during the warmer months when the summer sun makes you run for a cool glass of water, but water consumption must be an integral part of your day regardless of the season. Cold water probably doesn’t sound very appealing when the temperatures begin to drop, so find some creative ways to get in those ounces. Here are a few helpful tips to stay hydrated:

  • Infuse your water with different flavors. You can experiment with different herbs such as basil and mint, or try cucumber and berry. Be careful with citrus, as lemon water is very popular but if you drink it in large amounts, it will erode your enamel and actually make your teeth more prone to cavities.
  • Drink it room temperature or even hot. You can use a gallon-size container and fill it up to your desired level the night before. It will be room temperature for you the next morning, and you can sip on it throughout the day. Hot water boiled on the stove can actually be very soothing on a sore throat or an upset stomach from too many treats. Whatever temperature you like to drink it at, try to make it as readily available as possible so that it’s convenient to reach for.
  • Get into the habit of drinking the first 16 ounces when you wake up in the morning. This is a great way to start the day, and not only because it kickstarts your water consumption. Your mouth dries out during the night due to suppressed saliva production while you’re sleeping, and you need to hydrate right when you wake up to combat the effects of dry mouth. The best way to do this is to keep a glass of water on your nightstand, ready for you before your feet hit the floor.

Christmas is a magical time for both children and adults alike, and you can still enjoy all that the season has to offer if you keep in mind the three simple tips: maintain your dental routine, indulge the right way, and stay hydrated. If you have not been to the dentist for a long time, or are just in need for a bi-annual checkup, don’t hesitate to give our office a call. We can ensure that you’re on the right track so that you can savor every part of the holidays with your family and friends.