Try these tasty food and drink alternatives

The holidays are a time to celebrate, eat festive treats and toast to our family and friends. But all those gingerbread cookies, eggnog cocktails, and candy canes wreak havoc on our dental health. Here’s some advice when it comes to drinking, eating, and making merry over the holiday season.

1. Eat this, not that.

Candy canes are a sweet treat during the holidays, but here’s the thing: Hard candies aren’t just full of sugar — biting down on one can lead to a broken or chipped tooth. One way to get that sweet fix without hurting your teeth is by chewing cinnamon gum. It contains an ingredient called cinnamon aldehyde, which destroys bacteria that causes cavities. Bonus: Cinnamon gum freshens your breath! Charcuterie boards are another big crowd pleaser. Dried fruit like cranberries and apricots might seem like a healthy choice, but they’re sticky, which means they stay on your teeth longer. Instead, reach for the cheese and fresh fruit and veggies.  And, as a common sense reminder, don’t use your teeth as a tool to open bottles and packages over the holidays. That can lead to tooth breakage, too, not to mention the germs consideration.  

2. Drink this, not that.

Mulled wine and eggnog cocktails are festive, fun drinks during the holiday season, but they can do a lot of damage to your teeth. For one thing, the dark-colored drinks will stain your teeth. Any tooth whitening and brightening you’ve done during the year will be erased thanks to these beverages.  Many also tend to sip on wine over longer periods of time, which doesn’t give your mouth a break, exposing your teeth to more sugars over that stretch of time. This can lead to cavities and make stains worse. Liquor combined with fruit juices, syrups, or soda is also bad news for your dental health because it exposes our teeth to large amounts of acidity. Acidity softens your enamel and increases your tooth sensitivity. Hard alcohol also dries out your mouth, leading to bad breath. If you do opt for a sugary cocktail, sip it through a straw to minimize the alcohol’s contact with your teeth. Champagne may seem like a wise choice because of its lighter color, but the sugar in champagne along with the carbonation can cause gum disease and erode tooth enamel over time.  Surprisingly, beer gets a high score when it comes to your teeth. It has a lower acidity level and higher water content. This is the best choice to avoid cavities and tooth erosion.  

3. Time your eating.

You probably haven’t thought about this one before, but timing matters when it comes to eating and drinking. It’s best to eat sweet treats either with your meal or right after. The other foods and drinks you’re consuming at that time can help prevent the sugar from sticking to your teeth.  The length of time it takes to eat a sugary treat can make a big difference in your dental health, so sucking on a candy cane is worse for your teeth than eating a few slices of pumpkin pie. The longer you expose your teeth to sugar, the more you feed the bad bacteria in your mouth, leading to plaque buildup and cavities. Drink some water when you’re finished with your treat and then, to be safe, wait 30 minutes after you’re done eating before brushing your teeth. This is because you’ve exposed your teeth to acid, softening the top layer of your teeth. A toothbrush will scrub away that top layer, but waiting 30 minutes gives your teeth time to re-harden so you don’t accidentally do more damage.   Follow these simple tips and you’ll avoid the post-holiday blues when it comes to your dental health.

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