How to Keep Your Teeth Happy During the Holidays
Carols, Cookies, and…Uh-oh, Cavities!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are filled with family, celebration and delicious meals. Even in the midst of a pandemic, we will continue to celebrate this joyous time of year to the best of our ability.
One of the season’s greatest joys is the delicacy of cakes, cookies, gingerbread, and more. The bad news is that many of our favorite foods come with a price! The bacteria in our mouth that cause caries (more commonly known as cavities) thrive in an environment of fermentable carbohydrates. The carbohydrates found in most holiday treats are fermentable! Now, this is not to say that you cannot still enjoy your holiday treats, but there are ways to do so while also maintaining your oral health.
Without overwhelming you with information, here is a bit of simple explanation as to how caries form in your mouth. There are four components necessary to form caries:
- Fermentable carbohydrates
Let’s talk about the main culprit: bacteria. Our mouth is a diverse ecosystem that is hosting many good bacteria! This is a similar concept to the ones found in your gut. To make it clear, not all bacteria are bad. However, if we are not properly cleaning our teeth, then the bad bacteria have the chance to seek permanent residency in our mouth—and we don’t want any guests living rent-free. The best way to evict those bacteria is through regular brushing, flossing, and professional cleanings.
If those bad bacteria have the chance to move in and stay for an extended period of time, then they will wreak havoc to the other “residents.” They’re disruptive, rude, and they are very unwanted. The longer they stay, the more of their friends they tell to come move in! These bacteria are opportunists, and one of the greatest opportunities presented to them are sugars provided by sweets and treats. The bacteria metabolize the carbohydrates and produce a product that is very acidic. If there is one thing acidic substances are known for, it’s breaking down the healthy structures of our teeth!
There is a light at the end of this tunnel, and I promise it is not to tell you to halt enjoyment of the holiday goodies. It is merely disrupting the process of the bacteria moving in. If they don’t have the time to move in, they don’t have the time to cause much damage! The best way to kick them out is through regular brushing and flossing twice a day, as well as adding in a possible third cleaning after consuming holiday treats. If brushing is not an option at a particular moment, you can always opt for sugar-free gum. Xylotol (a main ingredient of sugar-free gum), is not only sugar-free, but it can actually be anti-cariogenic. Lastly, if you are experiencing any uncomfortable pain while consuming sweets and treats, give us a call and we will take care of you in time to return to the holiday festivities.
Happy holidays and stay safe!
Dr. Hill & Staff