Friday, December 18, 2009

A Resolution to Smile About

The many family and social gatherings between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are trying times for your waistline … and for your teeth.

Americans consume roughly 675 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Billions of candy canes are eaten each holiday season and each person puts away an estimated 12 pounds of premium chocolates. Almost all of our favorite holiday treats are filled sugar that could all take a serious toll on your teeth.

And it’s not just the food. Americans drank enough last year for every person to have had 7 bottles of liquor, 12 bottles of wine, and 230 cans of beer. If you don't make good decisions about what you are eating and drinking, or properly clean your teeth afterward, you could end up with tooth decay, gum disease and possible tooth loss.

With this in mind, I want to share some oral health tips that will help keep your smile intact this holiday season and into the next:

If you drink wine, choose red over white. White wine is more acidic than red wine and it contains more sugar, making it more harmful for your teeth in the long run. Researchers say contact with white wine erodes the tooth’s protective enamel - making teeth more sensitive to cold, hot and sweet food.

Regardless of the color of the wine, rinse your mouth with water before brushing your teeth. Brushing immediately after consuming wine, a very acidic beverage, may damage the tooth's structure. Give your mouth’s saliva time to re-mineralize the tooth structure and neutralize possible damage. So wait, and then rinse with water before brushing.

If you choose to drink spirits or liquor, the opposite is true. Opt for lighter or clear liquids to avoid higher sugar content. Also, be aware of the sugar content of your favorite mixers. And as with the wine, rinse your mouth with water after you drink and before you brush your teeth.

Eat some cheese. The mouth naturally becomes more acidic after eating to aid digestion. Cheese keeps the mouth less acidic and therefore healthier for teeth. Cheese also coats the teeth with calcium and prevents demineralization. (And consider this -- chewing sugarless gum increases saliva, which helps clear food from tooth crevices and replaces essential minerals on teeth. We recommend gum with the sweetener Xylitol which is a natural cavity fighter.)

Consume candy in moderation – sugar free if possible. If you are choosing between a candy cane and a piece of chocolate, go with the chocolate. Sticky candies are less likely to wash out from between your teeth with saliva and therefore get more time in contact with your teeth. (This is also true for fruit cake.) Also, avoid biting directly down on hard candies to avoid fracturing a tooth.

Resolve to floss at least once a day this next year. If you are already a flosser, good for you. If you aren’t, or are only flossing sparingly, make a resolution to add this to your family’s daily routine. To get you started, most dentists give you a free trial size to ease you into this great lifelong habit.

No matter how exhausted you may be from hosting your family or attending your fifth party in a row, remember to brush your teeth before you go to bed. If all the acid from the food you ate gets 8 hours to fester in your mouth, it can do a lot of damage that you could have been prevented with 2 minutes and a toothbrush. Do the same in the morning --keep in mind plaque builds up even if you haven't eaten anything for 8 hours.

Good dental habits throughout the holidays – and year round – will help make for a happier New Year. As you make plans for 2010, I hope you all will resolve to be better to your teeth because that’s something we can all smile about.

Guest Blog Post by Dr. Linda Vidone, Associate Dental Director for DentaQuest