Protecting Your Smile During the Holidays

Ahh, the holidays: A time of family gatherings, thoughtful reflection, and plenty of freshly baked goodies. From pies to cakes, strudels to cookies, the holiday season can seem like a endless string of sugary sweet goodness.

Of course, from a dentist’s point of view, the holiday season looks a little different. According to Centerpointe Dental‘s Dr. Paul Krech, a family dentist in Lakeville, MN, both adults and children can do serious damage to their teeth if they overload on sugars during the winter months. Most home-baked goods come packed with sugar, salts, and spices, sending patients to the dentist with toothaches and early signs of dental decay.

Dr. Krech says that from the perspective of a dentist, the less sugar a person consumes, the better off he or she will be. However, as a realist, he also understands how difficult it can be to avoid the occasional slice of pumpkin pie during a fun holiday party. With that in mind, he offers some helpful advice on how to minimize dental damage during the holiday season.

More important than how much sugar a person consumes is how long the sugar stays in the person’s mouth. That doesn’t mean that people should start scarfing down cakes and cookies rather than sitting back and enjoying the flavors, of course. Rather, Dr. Krech says that people should try to cleanse their mouths of sugar as soon after consuming sweet goods as possible. This can be done by running to the bathroom for a quick tooth brushing, or simply drinking a tall glass of water.

An example of this type of problem, when taken to an extreme, can be seen with the cans of soda that so many people drink year-round. Dr. Krech says that a person who spends all day sipping one can of Mountain Dew may be no better off than someone who drinks four cans in a matter of minutes – at least when it comes to his oral health and chances for cavities and decay. In terms of how likely a person is to develop cavities, Dr. Krech says the issue is not how much sugar a person eats, but rather, how much sugar he exposes to his teeth.

When sugar is left untouched in a person’s mouth, the bacteria will feed off of that sugar. That process, in turn, causes the sugar to start breaking down and begin generating acid. Most people do not realize this, but sugar is not actually what hurts teeth. It is the acid that results from the sugar that causes damage to the enamel. It only takes a small bit of sugar to stimulate the type of bacteria that produces acid in the mouth.

During the holidays, this can be remedied by eating baked goods in one sitting rather than grabbing a pile of cookies and nibbling on them all day. Dr. Krech says that it is unrealistic for a dentist to expect everyone to run to the bathroom and brush his teeth before and after each piece of pie. However, he says that good oral hygiene will go a long way in preventing cavities and protecting a person’s enamel. For the most part, Dr. Krech insists that people who remember to brush their teeth twice a day, floss once a day, and limit their exposure to sugar as much as possible can expect to make it through the holidays cavity-free.

*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.

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