The Holidays and Your Dental Health

The holiday season has arrived and with that so have the festivities! I have always loved the holiday season because of time spent with friends and family, but also because I get to enjoy one of life’s true joys… food! From turkey to pecan pie to wine, it is my unquestioned favorite time of the year. It probably is for most of you as well! Without trying to be a downer though, it is important to emphasize that what we eat during this time does affect our health in many ways. My personal motto is simple, enjoy what you want to… in moderation. That being said, there are foods that bring a higher rate of decay to our teeth (cariogenicity).

Oral diseases such as tooth decay and gum and bone disease (gingivitis or periodontitis) are caused by the bacteria that lives in our mouths. These naturally occurring bacteria love sugar and proliferate out of control when our diet is full of sugars.

While I want everyone to enjoy themselves during this fun time, I do want to point out some foods and beverages that may surprise you in their ability to cause harm to your teeth and gums.

Shock alert: One of the most cavity-causing foods in the world is the saltine cracker. Have you ever noticed how saltine crackers or Goldfish become sticky in your mouth as you’re chewing them? These crackers are worse than candy for your teeth because they’re a fermentable and highly processed starch (a form of sugar). Many people don’t realize that most crackers are highly processed and contain genetically engineered ingredients, essentially increasing the glycemic index and making the food more cariogenic. They also stick to your teeth and are not washed away easily by saliva, so they are present on the teeth surfaces for longer periods of time. More time on the teeth means more food for the bacteria to eat and subsequently, multiply and cause more destruction.

Some other common foods that cling to your teeth for a long time:

  • honey
  • table sugar
  • soda
  • raisins and other dried fruit
  • cake
  • cookies
  • hard candy
  • breath mints
  • dry cereal
  • chips

Prevention of dental problems with regularly scheduled trips to the dentist for cleanings and exams are always advised. But there are ways that you can help reduce the destruction that sugars can have on your dentition:

  • brushing at least twice a day with fluoride containing toothpastes and flossing between your teeth
  • reducing the consumption of sugars throughout the day
  • reduce frequent snacking between meals
  • chewing sugar-free gum to help remove sticky foods off your teeth
  • drink more water!
  • eat healthy foods: Cheese, nuts and apples can help break up the plaque that adheres to your teeth.  High fiber foods can also help increase the production of saliva in your mouth, which serves as a natural protector for teeth.