December 17, 2013
Christmas is a time where we all want to celebrate the season, kick back a bit, enjoy a break and treat our loved ones and ourselves. For most of us this includes indulging in rich party foods, candy, chocolate, Christmas dinner and a glass of wine (or two!)
Inevitably the holiday period can be quite tough on your teeth. The extra treats, the candies being passed around work, the box of homemade cookies given to you by your neighbor, the glass as wine at a friends house are all additional times when your teeth are vulnerable to attack from dental decay.
From a dental health perspective, you might be surprised to know that it is less about how much you eat (the volume) and more about how often you eat (the frequency). It is much healthier to eat 3 balanced meals a day than have 7-10 snacks throughout the course of the day- even if you are actually eating the same amount and types of the food.
The reason for this is that every time you eat anything that contains sugar, your teeth are under acid attack for up to one hour afterwards. The sugar in your food is broken down by the (normal, healthy) bacteria in your mouth and acid is produced. It is this acid that attacks the enamel of your teeth and over time causes tooth decay. Acidic foods and drinks (such as orange juice, diet soda, citrus fruits) can be just as harmful to your teeth.
And also remember that sugars can be present in foods even when it might not be so obvious; for example, fruit (fresh and dried), bread and many sauces.
As the acid attacks the teeth, the enamel of the tooth is destroyed and over time this becomes a hole or cavity in the tooth. Initially it is likely that you will experience sensitivity. If the decay is allowed to continue it will lead to tooth ache. At this point the tooth will require a filling or, if left untreated for long enough, you may have to lose the tooth (an extraction).
So, how can you avoid these problems and yet still enjoy the Christmas treats?
It is advised that you enjoy your sweet treats- Christmas cake, mince pies, chocolates, sweet or fizzy drinks- at meal times rather than spread them out throughout the course of the day. And if your children are having candy, encourage them to eat it in one sitting rather than keep returning to the bag and having one every hour or so.
Brushing your teeth at the end of the day, just before you go to bed , is vital in ensuring that sugar and food debris is removed from the teeth. However, brushing teeth immediately after you have finished eating something acidic is not advised. Straight after you have eaten, the enamel is softened and if used at this point, the abrasive action of the brush and toothpaste will remove this layer of enamel. This erodes the teeth and makes them sensitive and vulnerable to decay. It is therefore advised that you wait 30- 60 mins after eating or drinking acidic foods before brushing your teeth. A simple mouth rinse with water immediately after can help to wash away the acid in the mouth.
Sugar-free chewing gum can also help as it makes the mouth produce more saliva, which helps to cancel out the acid in your mouth from eating or drinking.
Easy steps to take to look after your teeth and ensure that you enjoy a happy, healthy Christmas.
Merry Christmas to everyone!