Maintaining good oral hygiene is important for our overall health, both for children and adults. But it can be really hard to keep up that oral health care routine during the holidays. Between the candy from Halloween, the sticky Christmas and Hanukkah treats, and the holiday schedules that involve travel or late bedtimes, there are tons of things that conspire to get us into bad habits over the next three months.
So how do you keep those healthy teeth and gums without feeling like a stick-in-the-mud during some of the most fun holidays of the year? Just follow these dental tips for holidays, and you’ll be able to save yourself some totally preventable trips to the dentist in the future:
Tip #1: Focus on Mouth-healthy Treats.
Treats with a lot of extra sugar just invite tooth decay– think caramel popcorn, candy apples, sugar cookies, eggnog, and so on. But there are plenty of other treats that are good for your teeth, or at least do little harm: Nuts, cheeses, gingerbread, and peppermint-flavoured items all make the list.
If you have braces or Invisalign, there may be other foods that you will want to avoid as well. For example, don’t drink hot drinks like warm cider or hot chocolate with your aligner trays in– the extra heat can warp the plastic!
Tip #2: When You Brush, Make it Count
Oral hygiene starts, of course, with brushing. That said, we often don’t have the time to keep up our usual brushing schedule over the holidays, even though we should.
So when we do get a chance to brush, we should make it count. How? Be sure that you are brushing appropriately and completely:
- Start with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
- Brush all surfaces of all teeth: Front, back, and side, top and bottom.
- Brush your mouth too. Bacteria can gather on your tongue, gums, and the roof of your mouth, so clean these with your toothbrush as well.
- Brush at a 45 degree angle for best cleaning.
- Floss to remove plaque from between your teeth.
- If you use mouthwash, wait 15 minutes after brushing to give the fluoride in your toothpaste time to work.
Tip #3: Be Prepared When Travelling.
Nothing disrupts our oral hygiene routines more than travelling. But with a little preparation, you can ensure that you stay on top of our oral health care game.
Most importantly, remember to pack everything you need to keep your teeth clean. For most people, that will be a toothbrush, a fluoride toothpaste, dental floss, and perhaps a small travel-size mouthwash. If you have braces or Invisalign, you might also have special cleaning tools (effervescent tablets, a waterpik, etc.). Remember to bring those, too.
If you are the type of person who always forgets something when they pack, try packing these items first. Buy a second travel toothbrush and toothpaste if you have to; most often, people will forget a toothbrush because they want to pack it last, after they have used it the day of travel.
Finally, bring some healthy snacks with you (see tip #1). Nuts travel well, as does beef jerky. Having these kinds of snacks handy will help you resist temptation when the sugary snacks come out.
Holidays Specific Oral Health Tips
Each holiday comes with its own specific temptations, and so presents its own challenges when it comes to oral hygiene. As your prepare for each holiday, consider these steps for you and your family:
Halloween: Of course, the sheer amount of candy around Halloween is enough to make any respectable dentist cringe. You should find ways to limit the amount of candy you and your family eats at once, and make sure to brush afterwards. Also, limit candy to after meals. Not only does this guarantee that your kids have nutritious food before candy, but the saliva that a good meal generates actually helps protect their teeth.
When choosing Halloween candy, help other families out as well. Consider handing out sugar-free lollipops and hard candies, or sugarless chewing gum, instead of the typical sugary candies that come with this holiday.
Thanksgiving. Many people travel to visit family during the Thanksgiving holiday, so all the travel tips above should be taken seriously.
If you are in charge of planning the Thanksgiving meal, consider that there are many foods that can attack or stain teeth. For example:
- Coffee, tea, and wine can stain teeth and dental appliances.
- Starchy foods, like breads, stuffing, and potatoes, break down into sugars rapidly, starting in the mouth. Explore alternatives and keep these to a minimum.
- Some drinks, like wine and cranberry juice, contain acids that can wear away enamel. Consider alternatives.
- Desserts like pies and cookies can contain some serious sugar. Keep these to a minimum. If you are baking, consider swapping sugar for substitutes like xylitol or erythritol, which do not cause decay.
Christmas, Hanukkah, and Other Winter Holidays. Almost everyone the world over celebrates a holiday at some point towards the end of the year. These often involve gatherings of friends and family– and, of course, food.
Again, watching what foods you eat and keep to an oral hygiene schedule, even when travelling, and important for maintaining your mouth’s health during this season.
We’ve also noticed that people are most rough on their teeth during this time. Whether it’s using their teeth to cut a ribbon on a present or pull a cork from a bottle of wine, folks treat their teeth like multi-purpose Swiss army knives. Between that and the cold weather, it’s no wonder that this time of year sees so many cracked and chipped teeth, as well as loose fillings.
So be kind to your teeth over the holidays… It’s no fun to start the new year having to undergo a preventable dental procedure.
If You Do Need Help, Though, Come to Us
Good oral hygiene is not complicated, but the Holidays does make things harder. If you find that you do need help after the holidays– whether for a chip, a filling, or just for a good post-holiday cleaning– talk to us. We’ve helped hundreds of people throughout North Carolina and Southern Virginia keep their smiles happy and healthy, even when holiday temptations are around.
Feel free to ask us your oral hygiene questions, or find a location nearest you to set up an appointment.
So we know a thing or two when it comes to finding the best in clear teeth aligners for your smile