The holidays are often a time of over-indulgence for people of all ages, and it's not just your waistline that can suffer. Unhealthy food and drink loaded with sugar and acids contribute to tooth decay, cavities and gum disease, which could mean you see in the New Year with a toothache or worse.
You don't have to give up your favourite festive food and drink to be healthy, but enjoying everything in moderation and finding ways to protect your teeth should mean you can avoid going to the dentist until it's time for your scheduled check-up. Follow these tips to give your teeth a whiter Christmas.
When you eat or drink something high in sugar, bacteria living on your teeth in plaque feed on it too. They convert this sugar into acid that wears down tooth enamel, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
Swapping sugary snacks for crunchy fruit, leafy greens and (sugar-free) dairy products can reverse some of this damage by scraping plaque off your teeth and providing calcium and other nutrients that help to remineralise teeth.
Take care with hard foods
Even healthy foods like nuts can chip or crack teeth if you bite down too hard. This can usually be avoided by taking smaller, cautious bites. You should also be wary of hard stones or seeds inside food such as cherries and olives and coins in Christmas puddings.
Trying to open nuts with your teeth isn't advised, and is a recipe for a trip to the emergency dental clinic. The same goes for chewing ice, pens, fingernails and other things that aren't food.
More damaging than how much sugar you consume is how often you have it. Spreading out sugary snacks and drinks is worse for your teeth than eating them close together, as you'll be exposing your teeth to acids again and again.
You should also avoid lollies that take a long time to eat, as these give bacteria more time to feed on the sugar.
Drink water after anything sweet
Drinking water throughout the day helps you to stay hydrated and cleans your mouth of bacteria and leftover food. Drinking after eating or drinking something sugary can reduce its effect on your teeth. It can also dilute acids in soft drinks, fruit juices and wine.
Add ice to drinks
Unsurprisingly, frozen water has a similar effect to liquid water when it comes to diluting acids in drinks. You can reduce the time that liquid stays in contact with your teeth by drinking through a straw and taking smaller sips.
Don't brush straight after eating or drinking
It's important to brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once for good oral hygiene, but this shouldn't be done too soon after you eat or have a sugary or acidic drink. This is because acids left on tooth surfaces weaken the teeth, which can cause them to be damaged by brushing. Wait at least an hour to be safe.
Do you need a dentist in Auckland?
Is it time for your dental appointment, or do you want some advice from a professional? Get in touch with our team at St Heliers Dental Centre so we can help you. Call our Auckland dental clinic on (09) 575 5814 or book online and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.