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Foods That Are Harmful To Your Teeth: Holiday Edition

The holidays are sugary sweet — in holiday cheer and in the treats that encircle the home, office, and practically everywhere you turn! The holidays are a real life CandyLand, so be mindful, and be aware of your dental health and the food choices you make this season.

Have you heard the adage “you are what you eat?” nothing rings truer than that when it comes to your oral hygiene. Keep your whole body healthier, starting with your dental care and the foods you eat. Minimize potential food hazards this holiday season, as we explore what is harmful to your teeth.

Be mindful of sugar

We all know that sugar is detrimental to oral health, and overall health in general, yet the holidays are full of sugar. On average, US adults consume 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, when the recommended amount is six teaspoons for women, and nine teaspoons for men, so there is a large discrepancy. If you decide to partake in peanut brittle, candy canes, cookies, and cakes, always rinse your mouth afterwards, and brush if you can.

Foods with a low pH rating — acidic — become dangerous. Sugary foods are converted to acid via the harmful bacteria that consume the sugar, that erodes the enamel resulting in cavities and tooth decay. Weakened enamel can also lead to sensitivity and discoloration.

You are unable to eliminate sugar from your diet, our body does benefit from small amounts, but ditch the processed sugar. Sugar is notorious for hiding in plain sight: think ketchup, spaghetti sauce, salad dressing, and bacon. It’s also very prevalent in chai, soda, “health” bars, and other goodies. Always glance at the sugar serving on the label, it will surprise and shock you.

So, be proactive and make a plan this holiday season to limit or find alternatives to processed sugar in food.

Sticky and chewy treats

Foods that stick and linger in your teeth are a nightmare to dental health. Food that stays attached to the nooks and crannies of your teeth, becomes a feast for bad bacteria. The longer the debris stays on your teeth, the more time the bacteria has to produce acid. So, it’s imperative to clean your teeth after that holiday party you attended, or even a pack a little travel kit and brush them in the bathroom!

Highly refined and starchy foods

Similar to sticky and chewy foods, starchy and highly refined carbohydrates can present oral health issues. When these foods are consumed, they are immediately turned into sugar. So while they may be salty and savory, they’re still technically sugar! To reiterate, the sugar is consumed by bacteria and the byproduct is acid, which erodes enamel.

Foods such as bread, chips, and pasta can wedge themselves into teeth crevices, and while they don’t seem like the usual suspect, pre-digestion begins in the mouth via saliva, turning it to sugar.

Foods that dehydrate your mouth

Sugar, sticky, and starchy foods are most commonly known as foods to limit, but avoiding foods that dry out your mouth is also important. Nature’s best defense against oral health issues is saliva, and having a properly hydrated mouth will make all the difference. Saliva is great for washing away plaque and food debris, along with preventing foods from sticking. Healthy, abundant saliva can also bring the main minerals back to your teeth. So, if you have a chronically dry mouth, you may want to consider what you’re eating, or doing a little investigating.Things that dry out your mouth are: coffee, energy drinks, alcohol, and certain medications.

If you’re imbibing this season, contemplate drinking one glass of water for every glass of coffee or alcohol you consume.

Skip hard foods

Your teeth are hard and can handle hard substances, but overtime it may crack or chip teeth or wear the enamel more quickly. Most commonly people chew on ice, hard candies, and popcorn kernels. Try not to make a habit of chewing on big chunks of candy canes or caramel popcorn kernels.

Helpful tips

Give your mouth a rest! Let your saliva regenerate and allow time to let it do its work. Constantly snacking disrupts the balance for your mouth to recover and naturally replenish minerals to the teeth.

Brushing is a great option after consuming adverse foods. If you’ve had an especially acidic meal, wait 20 minutes before brushing, as the acid has weakened your enamel.

Stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and swish water when you’ve had the food mentioned above.

Dr. Mojgan Mazhari DDS

To avoid holiday food mishaps or dental emergencies, rethink the foods you eat this season. Be mindful of your oral health and make a plan for the special occasions you plan to sweetly partake in! We’re here to help with your dental health, so please call us today with any questions or concerns!